68th Plenary Meeting of General Assembly 73rd Session

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20-Feb-2019 01:08:46
Speakers urge peaceful settlement to conflict in Ukraine, underline support for sovereignty, territorial integrity of Crimea, Donbas region at 67th and 68th plenaries.

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There is no alternative to a peaceful settlement of the five-year conflict in Ukraine, with deployment of a United Nations-mandated peacekeeping operation there being an effective tool to bring peace, speakers told the General Assembly today.

“The United Nations ability to properly address this challenge will have, without any doubt, a direct impact on the future of the rules-based international order,” said Ukraine’s President, Petro Poroshenko, as he addressed the Assembly’s plenary on “the situation in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine”.

He noted that 7 per cent of Ukraine’s territory, including Crimea and eastern parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, are currently under occupation, with about 13,000 people killed and more than 28,000 wounded in the conflict, which began in 2014.

A United Nations-mandated multinational peacekeeping operation with a clear objective to end the Russian Federation’s aggression and restore Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity could be a decisive factor in bringing peace to Donbas, he said, stressing that there is no alternative to a peaceful settlement of this international conflict.

The Russian Federation’s delegate said that the title of today’s meeting was misleading as Crimea is his country’s territory, with attempts being made at the United Nations to hand a “guilty verdict” to his country without any evidence. It is Ukraine’s authorities that started attacks on their own citizens.

He went on to outline events that took place prior to the outbreak of the crisis in Ukraine, describing how the Ukrainian nationalists staged a coup in Kyiv. He denounced Ukraine’s President for using the Assembly meeting to boost his popularity ratings in the run-up to the upcoming election.

Joining many other speakers, the European Union’s representative condemned the illegal annexation of the Crimean Peninsula by the Russian Federation and expressed concern about the ongoing militarization of that territory and the Black and Azov seas.

He reiterated the Union’s call for all sides to swiftly and fully implement the Minsk agreements and honour their commitments in full, to achieve a sustainable political solution to the conflict in line with Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) principles and commitments.

Poland’s delegate proposed a two-pronged approach to address the matter. First, the Russian Federation must conform to the Minsk agreements and withdraw its weapon systems from the sovereign Ukrainian territory. Then, a full-fledged United Nations-mandated peacekeeping mission could be deployed to the conflict zone, or the Organization could at least initiate the process by sending a fact‑finding mission to Ukraine.

Liechtenstein’s representative said that, as in other crises the Security Council is unable to tackle, the Assembly has a mandate and responsibility to play a more active and meaningful role in the situation in Ukraine. He called for special attention to the Minsk agreements’ self-governance and decentralization provisions and stressed that many serious crimes committed during the crisis warrant a thorough investigation. In that vein, he urged Ukraine to ratify the Rome Statute, including provisions granting the International Criminal Court jurisdiction over the crime of aggression.

Syria’s delegate described the request to include the current item on the Assembly’s agenda as a unilateral, politicized move. Today’s meeting is a fresh attempt to hinder the implementation of the Minsk agreements and undermine efforts to resolve the crisis.

Noting that the Assembly’s consideration of the agenda item constitutes a violation of Article 12 of the Charter of the United Nations, he said the inclusion of the terms “temporarily occupied territories” does not change the fact that the item falls exclusively under the Security Council’s purview.

Latvia’s delegate highlighted the plight of the Crimean Tatars, whose history is fraught with suffering and persecution. He expressed alarm over reports of torture, enforced disappearances and suspected killings, as well as continuous violations of the freedom of expression, freedom of religion and media freedom, calling on the Russian Federation, as the occupying Power in Crimea, to end all human rights violations.

Germany’s delegate said that, in the Budapest Memorandum of 1994, Kyiv gave up its nuclear weapons in return for a guarantee from the Russian Federation of Ukraine’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity. Moscow’s violation of that agreement was a grave setback for international law, he stressed, asking what example that sets for other nations considering abandoning their nuclear weapons programmes. “You cannot just breach international law and get away with it,” he said.

In other business, the Assembly elected Inger Andersen (Denmark) as Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to a four‑year term. She will succeed Erik Solheim (Norway), who resigned in November 2018.

The Assembly also appointed Felipe García Landa (Mexico) as a member of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) for a term expiring on 31 December, replacing Carlos Ruiz Massieu (Mexico), who is taking on a new mission.

Also speaking today were representatives of Norway (for the Nordic countries), Estonia, Peru, Lithuania, Slovakia, Italy, Republic of Moldova, Canada, United States, Czech Republic, Georgia, Bulgaria, Netherlands, Slovenia, Australia, Switzerland, Belarus, United Kingdom, Turkey, Croatia, France and Belgium.

The Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 27 February, to convene a high-level debate on international migration and development.

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