UNITED NATIONS - UN diplomats wrapped up two days of discussions during a weekend retreat held outside New York City in a bid to move forward the process of long-delayed reform of the Security Council, but apparently made no breakthrough.

In a concluding statement, General Assembly President Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser said while he saw no perceptible change in the positions of various groups seeking to expand the 15-member council to make it more effective, representative and accountable,  their dedication to accomplish that objective was encouraging,

“On the beginning of the discussion on the current state of the reform, part of you have spoken in favour of (Security) Council expansion in both permanent and non-permanent categories of membership, another part did not share the same view,” he said.

“While this brings no new developments to the positions that we already know over the years, I am very encouraged, by the emerging feeling of the need to move and proceed forward,” President Nasser said.

“Very interesting points and questions were raised , on whether we need further negotiations or decisions, other voices called for the need of innovation in the way we are approaching this important question,”  he added.

At the same time, he warned that the stalemate of the process threatened the UN’s ability and credibility to undertake its chartered mandate. Despite widespread agreement that the Security Council needs to reflect the 21st century world - not the international power structure after World War II - the 193-member assembly has been unable for three decades to agree on a reform proposal.

The Security Council is currently composed of five permanent members - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States - and 10 non-permanent members that are elected in groups of five to two-year terms on the Council. Pakistan is currently a non-permanent member of the Council.

Practically all member states agree on expanding the membership of the Council, but they are sharply divided on which category the increase should take place and by how many. The intergovernmental negotiations on the reform process remained deadlocked. Key issues under discussion are the category of membership, the question of veto, regional representation, the size of an enlarged Council, and the Council’s working methods and its relationship with the General Assembly.

India, Germany, Brazil, Japan, - known as the Group of Four (G4) - are seeking permanent seats on the Council. In 2005, they formally introduced a proposal to expand the Council by 10 seats, with 6 permanent members. The G-4 move was challenged by Italy/Pakistan-led Uniting for Consensus (UfC) group, which opposes any increase in the number of permanent members but seeks enlargement of the non-permanent category - with longer terms.

On its part, the African Union’s has called for the Council to be enlarged to 26 seats, one more permanent seat than the G-4 proposal. Its proposal for six new permanent seats was the same as the G-4’s, except that it would give the new members veto power.

But G-4’s campaign for permanent seat on the Council is losing steam, as  even a year after claiming the support of 80 members for its stand, it  has failed to prove it. Not only that, cracks have begun to appear in its ranks, with Japan reportedly re-thinking of its stand on the issue.

Ahead of the weekend retreat, a senior Japanese diplomat urged his government to reconsider its position on restructuring the Council.

Kiyotaka Akasaka, until recently under-secretary-general of UN’s Department of Information, told Yomiuri Shimbun that there is no positive development in the Member States’ discussions on the Security Council reform and that Japan should now take a more realistic approach to reform the Council in such a way as to create semi-permanent membership to be rotated for a renewable term among some of non-permanent members.

In his remarks, the General Assembly President, Al-Nasser, said, “Having this divergence in views, on the way forward, should make no obstacle or interrupt  progress.

“It is our deep sense of responsibility that should guide us out of the status quo.

“Because there is no question that Security Council reform is central to the process of UN reform. That’s why I chose the ‘UN reform and Revitalization’ as one of my focus areas this (66th) session (of the General Assembly).. As we are concluding our retreat, I would like to share with you a word from the heart, status quo is not an option,” the president said.

“As a president of the General Assembly, there came moments at the 66th session, that I recall, where the Assembly, had to react very promptly at times where status quo was no option.,” he said referring to the adoption of a resolution on the Syrian crisis when the Security was blocked Chinese and Russian vetoes.