While an end to the crisis in Ukraine had proven elusive thus far, a peaceful solution remained possible, the Secretary-General’s senior United Nations political affairs official told the Security Council today.
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Government Ready for ‘Open Dialogue’ Prime Minister Says amid Calls for Diplomacy
While an end to the crisis in Ukraine had proven elusive thus far, a peaceful solution remained possible, the Secretary-General’s senior United Nations political affairs official told the Security Council today.
Jeffrey Feltman, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, emphasized, however, that the frequency of the Council’s deliberations on the subject reflected the international community’s inability so far to deliver on its obligation to help de-escalate tensions. Council members were considering the situation in Ukraine for the sixth time since 1 March.
Also addressing the Council, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk of Ukraine said there was still a chance for peace. “This Government is ready for an open dialogue. We extended our hand to Russia, but instead we got a barrel. But we still believe Russia is ready to negotiate and tackle this dramatic conflict.”
However, the Russian Federation’s representative responded that his country wanted neither war nor to exacerbate the situation further. However, the international community must objectively look at the facts in order to understand the genesis of the situation.
The representative of the United States described plans for a referendum in Crimea on whether to join the Russian Federation or remain within Ukraine as “hasty, unjustified and divisive”, while emphasizing that the vote proposed for Sunday, 16 March, would be a violation of Ukrainian sovereignty.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Luxembourg, Council President for March, also addressed the Council.
Also delivering statements were representatives of the United Kingdom, France, Rwanda, Jordan, Republic of Korea, China, Nigeria, Chile, Australia, Lithuania, Chad and Argentina.
The meeting began at 3:10 p.m. and ended at 5 p.m.
Meeting this afternoon to consider the situation in Ukraine, members of the Security Council had before them a letter (document S/2014/136) dated 28 February from that country’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations and addressed to the President of the Council.
JEFFREY FELTMAN, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said the Council had accorded serious attention to recent developments in Ukraine, amid multiple multilateral and bilateral diplomatic efforts to resolve the situation. The frequency of those deliberations reflected the international community’s inability so far to deliver on its obligation to help de-escalate tensions, despite the Secretary-General’s repeated reminders to do so. Although it had proven elusive so far, the path towards a peaceful resolution of the crisis was still open, he said, adding: “Let us seize it.”
Noting that the continuing seizure and blockading of Ukrainian military bases in Crimea, as well as of most State Border Service facilities, he said there had been reports that unidentified military personnel had taken over a military hospital. On 11 March, it had also been reported that the Crimean authorities had closed down the peninsula’s airspace to all commercial flights, except those originating from Moscow, citing the need to keep “provocateurs” out of Crimea. The referendum called by the authorities was expected to go ahead on Sunday, 16 March, and there were no indicators to the contrary.
On the same day, Crimea’s Parliament had adopted a “declaration of independence of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea” on 11 March, he recalled. Also that day, Ukraine’s Parliament, citing specific articles of the country’s Constitution, had adopted a resolution urging the Parliament of Crimea to “reconsider its decision of 6 March 2014 and bring it in line with the Constitution of Ukraine and the constitution of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, approved by the Law of Ukraine of 23 December 1998”. The resolution further stated that if the Crimean Parliament failed to reconsider by 12 March, the Parliament of Ukraine would “initiate the issue of early termination of powers of the Verkhovna Rada of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea”.
The Under-Secretary-General went on to express regret that the local authorities had denied Ivan Šimonović, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, access to Crimea, citing their lack of readiness to receive him and its inability to provide security for him. Reporting on the human rights situation throughout Ukraine, Mr. Šimonović had said that in respect of Crimea, he would have to rely on reports from residents, foreign diplomats and international non-governmental organizations there. However, he had held meetings in Kyiv, Kharkiv and Lviv, including with representatives of local administrations, the Russian minority and non-governmental organizations. A monitoring mission from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) was set to become operational in Ukraine by the upcoming Monday, and the Secretary-General was now considering whether to ask Mr. Šimonović to extend his mission.
ARSENIY YATSENYUK, Prime Minister of Ukraine, said it was absolutely unacceptable in the twenty-first century to resolve any kind of conflict with tanks, artillery and boots on the ground. The Russian Federation’s actions were in violation of a number of treaties signed by the two countries, he emphasized, adding, however, that there was a chance to resolve the conflict in a peaceful manner.
Praising his country’s military for having refrained from the use of force, he said the foreign military presence in Ukraine had been clearly identified as Russian. Urging the Russian Federation to pull back its forces and to start real negotiations, he said the conflict was not merely regional in scope as its ramifications went beyond Ukraine’s borders.
Recalling that his country had abandoned its nuclear weapons programme in 1994, thereby giving up one of world’s biggest nuclear weapons arsenals of under the Budapest Memorandum, he said that accord guaranteed the Ukrainian State’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The Russian Federation’s actions jeopardized the international nuclear non-proliferation regime and would make it difficult to convince anyone around the globe not to seek nuclear weapons.
The Ukrainian Government was absolutely open and wanted to have talks, he said, declaring that his country was looking for an answer to the question of whether the Russians wanted war. The two countries had maintained warm and friendly relations, and Ukraine was convinced that the Russian people did not want war, he stressed, expressing hope that the Russian Federation would heed the will of its people.
JEAN ASSELBORN, Council President for March and Minister for Foreign and European Affairs of Luxemburg, spoke in his national capacity, saying the international community could not be indifferent to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. Stressing the role of the Security Council as the main body responsible for the maintenance of international peace and security, he said the Russian Federation’s use of force was a flagrant violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and of international law and the United Nations Charter. The international community would not recognize the outcome of the referendum to be held in Crimea on Sunday, in breach of Ukraine’s Constitution, she said. Welcoming the spirit of openness just shown by the Prime Minister of Ukraine, she said the Russian side “should grasp the outstretched hand extended by Ukraine”, and called for the formation of an international contact group to mediate negotiations between the two.
SAMANTHA POWER ( United States), describing the “stark contrast” between the conduct of Kyiv and that of Moscow, said the Government of Ukraine was according priority to internal reconciliation and had proposed the creation of a task force to consider the prospect of autonomy for Crimea within Ukraine. Unwavering in its pledge to honour all international agreements, it had also shown remarkable restraint in respect of armed force. Ukraine’s voice was one of reason and restraint in the face of provocation, she said, adding that the groundwork had been for a new Government that would represent the needs of all Ukrainians, with elections planned for 25 May. That vote would give citizens the chance to be heard, and those wishing to shape Ukraine’s future an opportunity to be elected.
The international community had seen a different type of approach in Moscow, including military action from the outset, she continued. The Russian Federation had massed forces along the border, while supporting efforts to take control of key Ukrainian assets. Russian troops had obstructed international monitors whose task was to ensure that the rights of minorities were not violated. “This was not the action of those who believed they had truth and law on their side,” she said. The planned referendum offered no option to vote for the status quo, and Russian troops had conducted new military operations as recently as this morning. Plans for the referendum were hasty, unjustified and divisive, she said emphasizing that the 16 March ballot would be a violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty.
The United States called for the suspension of that “ill-conceived” initiative, she said, calling upon the Russian Federation also to refrain from taking additional steps in its “dangerous undertaking” and urging direct talks between the two countries, with appropriate international support. The Russian Federation had to want a diplomatic solution, which remained both viable and clear, she said, recalling that her Government proposed a resolution that would endorse a solution allowing the Security Council to act, if needed, to ensure the peace. “This is the moment to show that rules matter,” she stressed. Unless the international community came together and sent a clear signal, the world would live with the consequences well beyond the current conflict. “We will look back and wish we had spoken with a unified voice,” she warned.
MARK LYALL GRANT ( United Kingdom) said his delegation stood side by side with Ukraine’s people, stressing that there was still a chance for a peaceful diplomatic solution. Recalling that there had been doubts over the legitimacy of the transitional administration in Kyiv, he pointed out that it had been formed after the former leader had discarded his own Government. In order to move away from confrontation, the Russian Federation must understand that its actions in Crimea were the cause of the confrontation. The Russian Federation’s alleged claims that it needed to protect Ukraine’s Russian-speaking population against anti-Semitism was unfounded, he said. As for Sunday’s planned referendum in Crimea, article 73 of Ukraine’s Constitution stated that any territorial change should be decided by a national referendum, he said, stressing that a free and fair vote could not be held under the threat posed by Russian forces. Such a “farcical” vote would reopen ethnic divisions and fail to win international recognition, he said, warning the Russian Federation against taking unilateral action. “The window is narrow, but it exists,” he said, calling that country’s forces in Crimea to return to their bases.
GÉRARD ARAUD ( France) said the Russian Federation was trying to justify the unjustifiable and would ultimately lose credibility while facing distrust in the future as a result. What would the future hold for relations between the Russian Federation and the European Union?, he asked. In the end, everyone would lose because the fragile international fabric would be torn as a result of the Russian Federation’s actions. It was important that the Security Council reassert the principles that were the very foundation of the United Nations, he emphasized. France supported the draft resolution submitted by the United States and wanted a vote on it before Sunday’s referendum. If the illegal vote took place, the Russian Federation would have to bear the consequences because the international community could not accept its actions.
EUGÈNE-RICHARD GASANA ( Rwanda) said it was a cause of growing alarm that the crisis in Crimea posed a threat to the security of the entire region and affected the daily lives of innocent people. While there were a number of diplomatic approaches to the crisis, it was important to take into account the substantive issues that had led to the conflict in the first place, he emphasized. The Security Council had a duty to work for an end to the confrontation, which would allow the Ukrainian people to determine their own destiny. Rwanda was concerned about the intensifying rhetoric, which undermined efforts to find common ground, he said, reiterating his delegation’s call for all parties to exercise extreme restraint and resolve the crisis through existing agreements.
ZEID R’AD ZEID AL-HUSSEIN (Jordan) said events in Ukraine had reached an extremely delicate stage requiring efforts to defuse tensions. The time had come to begin direct dialogue between the Russian Federation and Ukraine, he said, adding that his delegation supported efforts by the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), including a proposal to form an international contact mechanism and to send fact-finding missions. Ukraine’s territorial integrity, sovereignty, political independence, as well as the principle of non-interference in internal affairs of States, must be respected, he stressed, calling on the parties concerned to launch an inclusive political process, restore the rule of law, and refrain from measures that could “close the door” on negotiations.
JOON OH ( Republic of Korea) expressed full support for the proposed May elections, but was particularly troubled by the decision of the Crimean authorities to hold a referendum, and by their unilateral declaration of independence. Ukraine’s people had full power to conduct their own affairs without interference, and any military presence not authorized by its Government must cease, he emphasized. Welcoming the efforts made by the Secretary-General and OSCE, he called for the deployment of a credible international monitoring mechanism, and for unhindered access to United Nations personnel, recalling that the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights had been denied entry.
LIU JIEYI ( China) said the situation in Ukraine remained highly complex and sensitive. Condemning extremism and violence, he said the priority must be the protection of all ethnic communities, with a view to upholding social order. China approached the issue objectively, bearing in mind its long-standing reluctance to interfere in the internal affairs of any State, he emphasized. All parties must exercise restraint, there must be a diplomatic solution and the interests of all ethnic communities must be put above all else. China supported constructive international efforts to de-escalate the situation in Ukraine, and was open to all plans that would mitigate tensions.
U JOY OGWU ( Nigeria) said that, in a world already deeply embroiled in turmoil, the crisis in Ukraine was one too many and the world could ill afford it. A cautious approach to the delicate situation could not be more imperative, she said, emphasizing that such an approach was even more pertinent today, since so little had changed since the Council’s last meeting. Nigeria called on all parties to uphold the provisions of the United Nations Charter, particularly the peaceful solution of disputes. There must be understanding, mutual trust, flexibility and a willingness to engage in constructive and peaceful dialogue. Urging the parties not to “slam the door on dialogue”, as “this represents a priceless opportunity for all possible solutions to be explored”. The foundations of reconciliation could be found in the previous agreements signed by the parties. The referendum planned for Sunday was illegitimate, and Nigeria called on the Crimean authorities to postpone and indeed cancel it.
OCTAVIO ERRÁZURRIZ ( Chile) warned against holding the referendum, saying it could escalate tensions. Underlining the need to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence, he said the breach of the United Nations Charter, as well as treaties to which Ukraine was a signatory should be avoided. Chile appealed to the Ukrainian authorities to establish inclusive national dialogue, while also urging both Ukraine and the Russian Federation to make use of existing mechanisms to resolve their dispute by peaceful means. Diplomacy should be given time, and the people of Ukraine should decide their own destiny, he added.
GARY QUINLAN (Australia), emphasizing that Ukraine’s territorial integrity must be respected, urged the Russian Federation to take “immediate, deliberate and definitive” steps to de-escalate the situation by ordering its troops back to their bases and allowing independent monitors into Crimea. The two countries must engage with each other in direct dialogue at senior levels. Yet, there had been no sign of change in the Russian Federation’s actions, he noted. Rather, there had been ample evidence of further efforts to consolidate its control over Ukrainian territory in Crimea. Citing the seizure of Ukrainian military and other Government facilities, he declared: “These actions cannot be justified by a perceived threat to Russian assets or nationals.”
VITALY CHURKIN (Russian Federation) said his country wanted neither war nor further exacerbation of the situation. Underlining the need for the international community to look objectively at the facts in order to understand the genesis of the situation, he said that his fellow delegates painted the image that without “evil Russia”, people in Ukraine would live long and happily. As for the recent change of power there, the legitimately elected President had been overthrown through the use of force, which was illegal, he pointed out, asking why Western nations considered that democracy.
He went on to note that the radicals who had taken over the Government had not yet laid down their weapons, and neither had they done anything to implement the agreement signed on 21 February. They had shut down the Russian-language version of the Government website. Ukraine was the one splitting itself in two, he stressed. Concerning the proposed referendum in Crimea, he said that while delegates disputed its legitimacy, he would remind them that the concept of a referendum was not new. Citing the example of Kosovo, he recalled that France had vetoed a draft resolution on the sovereignty of Comoros following a referendum held in Mayotte. The Russian Black Sea fleet was not interfering in the situation, he said in conclusion.
RAIMONDA MURMOKAITĖ (Lithuania) said that a referendum had never been set up so hurriedly and in such clear violation of Ukraine’s constitution. The voices of many other ethnic groups in Crimea would not be heard through the referendum because it had only been planned because the Russian Federation was “fast-tracking” the annexation of Crimea. As a result, one could only imagine the shudders being felt across the region, she said. The Russian Federation had repeatedly expressed recognition of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity under existing agreements, yet the its actions violated the very foundations of international law, as well as regional and international security. Nothing that had been said warranted or justified the Russian Federation’s actions, she emphasized, noting that Ukraine had repeatedly invited monitors in and had nothing to hide. The crisis was deeply troubling because it had a highly explosive human dimension and risked unleashing the “most dangerous demons” of hatred, she warned, calling upon the Russian Federation to stop its “warmongering”.
BANTE MANGARAL (Chad) expressed concern about the escalating crisis, despite calls by the international community for calm and restraint. It was time to preserve Ukraine’s territorial integrity and to hold an inclusive dialogue, he said. Chad called for the peaceful settlement of the dispute, in accordance with the United Nations Charter and supported by international mediation for a peaceful solution.
MARIA CRISTINA PERCEVAL (Argentina) said it was essential that all States respect Ukraine’s right to conduct its own internal affairs. Argentina had supported the concept of political independence of all States throughout its history, even before the existence of the United Nations, and was greatly concerned about the internal situation evolving in Ukraine. It was essential that the international community and the main parties concerned promote a democratic dialogue that would help to bring about a peaceful solution to the crisis, she said. Argentina appealed to all parties to refrain from adopting positions that would complicate the possibility of dialogue.
Prime Minister YATSENYUK of Ukraine, taking the floor for a second time, noted that all delegations except one supported his country’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. The Government was executing bilateral and multilateral agreements that Ukraine had signed. Crimea was an integral part of the country, and the Government would not honour any “hand-made, artificial referendum”. Ukraine’s Government would protect every minority and was ready for an open dialogue. “We extended our hand to Russia, but instead we got a barrel,” he said, adding nevertheless that he felt the Russian Federation was ready to negotiate. Calling for truth, he said history would be the judge.