By Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Russia said on Tuesday it does not want to offend Ukraine and other recently elected United Nations Security Council members by officially launching the race for a new secretary-general before the Jan. 1 start of their council terms.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, a former South Korean foreign minister, is due to step down at the end of 2016 after serving two five-year terms. The job traditionally rotates between regions, with Eastern Europe next on the list.
The 15-member Security Council, including permanent veto powers Russia, China, the United States, Britain and France, considers an undisclosed list behind closed doors and recommends a candidate to be elected by the General Assembly.
In a bid to boost transparency, the General Assembly adopted a resolution in September asking the presidents of the General Assembly and the Security Council to begin the search for Ban's replacement by sending a joint letter to the 193 U.N. states outlining the process and soliciting candidates.
But Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said on Tuesday the letter should not be sent before January. The General Assembly is due to elect the new secretary-general in late 2016.
"We cannot do it without Ukraine and Uruguay and other new members. Really it's impolite because the new members are going to be the ones ... doing the whole process, so how can we announce the process without them," Churkin told Reuters.
Ukraine, Egypt, Japan, Senegal and Uruguay are due to join the Security Council for a two-year term on Jan. 1.
"Why ... hurry and offend new non-permanent members of the Security Council," Churkin said, in what appeared to be in part an usual show of concern for Russia's neighbor Ukraine.
Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimea in March 2014, which was followed by fighting between Moscow-backed separatist rebels and Ukrainian troops in eastern Ukraine. Russia denies supporting the rebels. A truce has largely held for the past month.
Mogens Lykketoft, president of the General Assembly, said on Tuesday he had shared a proposed draft letter on the secretary-general selection process with British U.N. ambassador Matthew Rycroft, who is Security Council president for November.
Lykketoft said he would like the letter sent "as quickly as possible." However in a nod to Russia's stance, Rycroft said "it's such an important issue that it would be unwise to try to push something like that through without broad agreement."
The General Assembly resolution adopted in September also asks for the names of secretary-general candidates to be circulated to all member states regularly along with their curriculum vitae.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Paul Simao)