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Foreign Minister Maas in New York
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/B. von Jutrczenka

Germany plans hands-on Security Council role

Alexander Pearson
January 25, 2019

The INF treaty, Venezuela and climate change: These are just some of the areas Germany wants to tackle in its two-year stint on the international body. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told DW what Berlin was planning to do.


Maas discusses German role in UN

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas represented Germany at the United Nations Security Council session on Friday for the first time since Berlin took over a non-permanent seat on the body at the beginning of the year.

Maas told the session, which focused on climate change and conflict, that it was crucial for international policy to better reflect the dangers posed by global warming.

"Climate change is real, it is having a global impact, and it is increasingly becoming a threat to peace and security. This is why the debate about the political consequences of climate change belongs here — the Security Council," Maas said, delivering his speech in English. "It must become routine for us to take the link between climate and security into account in all conflict situations."

The minister also called for immediate rapid-action measures for hard-hit areas and greater access to information about climate risks.

For its two-year membership on the Council, the German government has earmarked four key goals: Peace, justice, innovation, and partnership. Ahead of the UN meeting, Maas told DW how Germany aims to take a hands-on approach to tackling crises and conflicts around the world.

On disarmament:

Disarmament is "the biggest issue" on Germany's agenda and Berlin is particularly concerned about the future of the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, Maas said.

Germany was eager to "help create an understanding" between the United States and Russia amid tensions between both countries over the Cold War-era accord.

The United States has pledged to withdraw from the treaty, which bans both countries from building mid-range ballistic missiles, in early February. Washington and Berlin accuse Russia of developing a missile system that violates the agreement.

European countries nevertheless fear that the treaty's dissolution could spark a new arms race that would threaten their security.

Alongside the future of the INF, Maas said that Germany also wants to tackle other disarmament challenges.

"It's not just about Russia and the US: China also has a part to play in the issue of disarmament," he said. "And we will be very active over the coming weeks and months in this regard."

On Venezuela:

Germany is "not neutral" in the standoff between President Nicolas Maduro and opposition lawmaker Juan Guaido, who declared himself president on Wednesday.

"We are on Juan Guaido's side because it is difficult for us to recognize the legitimacy of Maduro's re-election," he said, adding: "That's why we are calling for fresh elections."

Germany and the European Union dismissed Maduro's re-election in May amid widespread reports of voting irregularities.

On women:

Germany would put the "experience of women in war higher on the agenda" during its term, Maas said.

"The United Nations is doing a lot already, but we have to do even more because women are often the first to suffer in conflict and women often have special skills that can help settle these conflicts later on."

On climate change:

Germany would also try to tackle the security challenges posed by climate change.

"Climate and security is one of those issues that is not getting enough attention," Maas said. "And the connection between climate change and security issues is becoming increasingly important."

In his speech before the Security Council on Friday, Maas warned that falling water tables in Afghanistan, Yemen and Iraq and other parts of the world, were undermining prospects of peace. 

He added that climate and security would be the focus of a high-level conference in Berlin on June 4. 

What is the UN Security Council?

The most powerful of the six principal bodies of the United Nations, the Council is charged with "primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security." It has five permanent members and 10 non-permanent members elected for two-year terms. Its decisions are binding under international law.

Alexander Fritsch contributed to this report.

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