Current topics, such as the disturbing developments in Syria, where thousands were trapped in eastern Ghouta, and conflict prevention generally will be the main focus of the Netherlands efforts during the country's month-long presidency of the United Nations Security Council, the Netherlands Ambassador in Athens Caspar Veldkamp said in an interview with the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA) published on Saturday.

The Netherlands took over as president of the UN Security Council on March 1 and will chair all Security Council meetings in March. The Netherlands holds a non-permanent Council seat for 2018.

The full interview with the ANA is given below:

ANA: During the month of March, the Netherlands is chairing the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). The Netherlands is a non-permanent member of the Security Council throughout the year 2018. How is it for a small country to be responsible for this task?

Veldkamp: ?For a country the size of the Netherlands, it is of course an honour to chair one of the most prestigious fora for diplomacy in the world. We have a tradition of active diplomacy, we deploy our military forces to international operations in the UN and NATO, and we spend about 5.0 billion US dollars per year on development aid. That we were elected by the UN member states to become a member of the Security Council, was not a coincidence in that context. We are generally known for preparing ourselves well and taking our tasks seriously. The other countries on the Security Council, including the major powers, will benefit from that.?

ANA: What are the initiatives your country will take during this month?

Veldkamp: ?First and foremost, we will have to deal with the topics of the day. That includes for example the very disturbing developments in Syria, were thousands of people are trapped in eastern Ghouta and need the fighting to stop and humanitarian aid to be delivered.

Apart from that, the Netherlands will organise five signature meetings that will be chaired by a member of the Dutch government. The first one will be held on March 8, which is International Women’s Day. This meeting will be about the renewal of the UN mission in Afghanistan and will focus on the role of women in building peace and security over there. Other meetings will be a briefing on the Democratic Republic of Congo, with a humanitarian focus (March 19), a briefing on the Lake Chad Basin region in Africa on World Water Day (March 22), and a briefing on the connection between hunger and conflict (March 23). Moreover, we will organise a larger debate on the future of UN peacekeeping operations, that will be held on March 28. These are all rather topical issues, that need to be addressed.?

ANA: What are the priorities of your country during the rest of the year?

Veldkamp: ?During our time on the Security Council, our focus will particularly be on conflict prevention, modernising peacekeeping operations and promoting justice and accountability. That last point is of course in line with the role of The Hague as the legal capital of the world. As you know, the city of The Hague is hosting the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court and various other international tribunals.

As a member in the UN Security Council throughout the year 2018, the Netherlands actively contributes to international peace and security. We try to help make the Security Council into an effective decision-making body that offers security and protection to people all over the world. This is not an easy task, in times of major turbulence in the world and tensions between some of the major powers. But we have a tradition of building bridges, literally back home across our many rivers and canals, and figuratively speaking in European and international diplomacy. It comes naturally to us.?