Berlin backtracks on Schroeder UN remarks

10th December 2004, Comments 0 comments

10 December 2004, BERLIN - The German government backtracked on Friday from Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's appeal to the United Nations to grant the power of veto to any new permanent Security Council member, calling his remarks "a starting point" for future negotiations. In the wake of the chancellor's remarks during a visit to Japan, his government spokesman in Berlin responded to reporters' questions by saying, "All this must be understood in the context of the chancellor's long-standing stated policy t

10 December 2004

BERLIN - The German government backtracked on Friday from Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's appeal to the United Nations to grant the power of veto to any new permanent Security Council member, calling his remarks "a starting point" for future negotiations.

In the wake of the chancellor's remarks during a visit to Japan, his government spokesman in Berlin responded to reporters' questions by saying, "All this must be understood in the context of the chancellor's long-standing stated policy that nothing comes out the way it goes in."

The spokesman, Hans Langguth, said: "His remarks ought to be taken as a starting point for future discussions."

The German foreign office, caught off guard by the chancellor's remarks, issued a statement playing down any differences between Schroeder and Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, who has pointedly taken no stance on the chancellor's Security Council reform scheme.

"The chancellor and the foreign minister are in constant touch on all pertinent issues," foreign office spokesman Walter Lindner said without elaboration.

In Tokyo, the chancellor joined forces with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in calling on the council to put potential new permanent members of the Security Council "on an equal footing" with the current five permanent members by giving the new members veto power.

Schroeder said it would not be fair to expand the Council and yet to deprive the new members of the power of veto held by the existing five permanent seat-holders, China, France, Great Britain, Russia and the United States.

On his current Asian tour, Schroeder has lobbied both China and Japan for support for his plan to expand the Security Council to include new permanent members, including Germany and Japan.

Germany wants to take advantage of a window of opportunity that was flung open at the end of last year when UN Secretary General Kofi Annan commissioned a committee of 16 experts to look into the "crisis of multilateralism".

By next spring the group primarily has to come up with reform proposals for U.N. structures - among them the Security Council.

The German plan is this: Permanent seats for Germany and Japan, and one seat each for Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Such a change to the UN Charter would require a two-thirds vote in the General Assembly and ratification by all five permanent members on the council.

France - which along with the United States, Britain, Russia and China has a veto right in the council - clearly favours Germany's bid. The remaining 10 seats are filled on a rotating basis, without veto power.

The French government has offered to allow a German diplomat to join its Security Council retinue pending Germany's full membership on the world body's highest panel.

Berlin feels Russia and China will also fall into line with France backing the proposal. Britain, however, is expected to hedge its bets, giving the appearance of supporting Germany whilst counting on an American veto of the whole affair, according to a report in Der Spiegel news magazine.

In addition, the news magazine report quotes diplomatic sources in New York as saying Washington is staunchly opposed to Berlin's plans to expand the Council and possibly to strip the Big Five permanent members of their veto right.

Germany has made no secret of its ambitions in recent years, but the issue was revived in March when Schroeder made it clear in unmistakable terms that his country wants a new role to play on the international stage.

"Germany is prepared to take on responsibilities as a permanent member of the Security Council," the chancellor told the Bundestag parliament.

Only days earlier, albeit in the humble confines of opening ceremonies for the Federal Academy for Security Policy, he had said: "Germany views itself as a candidate for a permanent seat."

Acknowledging that no decision will be made for years, the chancellor nonetheless said he is certain of one thing: "It would be irresponsible for us not to say now just exactly what we want."

DPA

Subject: German news

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