Sweden urges UN Security Council to produce results in 2017

January 4, 2017 GMT

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Sweden’s U.N. ambassador urged members of the often divided U.N. Security Council on Tuesday to make a New Year’s resolution: Try to find common ground and produce results in 2017 that improve global peace and security.

Olof Skoog, the council president for January, said he also urged members of the U.N.’s most powerful body to look beyond their national interests and “deal with each other in a respectful way ... because I think it’s been missing sometimes.”

He said some people may think “this is a typical naive Swedish way” of becoming a council member for the first time in 20 years, or as “a little bit of motherhood and apple pie.”

But Skoog said people look at the Security Council as the main body protecting them from conflicts, humanitarian crises and violations of international humanitarian law, “all of which are at a low right now.”

Nonetheless, he said there is momentum following the council’s adoption of resolutions in the last two weeks condemning Israeli settlements and supporting efforts by Russia and Turkey to end the conflict in Syria and jumpstart peace negotiations — issues the council has long been divided over.

He said there is also momentum with the arrival of new Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who was unanimously recommended for the U.N.’s top job by the council and has a “united U.N. behind him,” which is very important.

“We have to make the best of the momentum that may exist now,” Skoog said.

Guterres, in the first minute of the new year after taking over as U.N. chief from Ban Ki-moon, urged all people in the world to make a New Year’s resolution: “Let us resolve to put peace first.”

Skoog said that during talks with Guterres on Tuesday the secretary-general expressed “his very strong wish to build a trustful and active relationship with the Security Council ... in line with putting peace at the center of his mission.”

The Swedish ambassador said that when he proposed his New Year’s resolution to the 14 other council ambassadors over breakfast Tuesday “no one contested it, and there were nods around the table, and I’ve had several appreciative comments by most of them afterward.”

Skoog said he believes most countries, including Russia and China, are working to avoid conflict situations like Syria, Libya, Yemen, Congo and other hotspots.

He expressed hope that the Security Council can “build trust” with the new secretary-general so they can work together to prevent conflicts.