Speakers Also Debate Situation in Temporarily Occupied Territories of Ukraine
The General Assembly decided today to convene a high-level meeting from 8 to 10 June to take stock of global efforts to end the HIV/AIDS crisis by 2030, adopting a draft resolution to that effect after a lengthy debate on the situation in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine.
Adopting “Organization of the 2021 high-level meeting on HIV/AIDS” (document A/75/L.59), as amended, by a recorded vote of 139 in favour to none against, with 5 abstentions (Algeria, Egypt, Madagascar, Russian Federation, Syria), the Assembly also requested its President to organize, no later than April, an interactive multi-stakeholder hearing with the active participation of people living with, at risk of and affected by HIV.
The high-level meeting — to be held in either a virtual or hybrid format on the basis of an assessment of health conditions amid the COVID-19 pandemic — will be the fourth of its kind since the Assembly adopted its Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS (document A/RES/S-26/2) in 2001. The previous meetings took place in 2006, 2011 and 2016.
By the terms of today’s resolution, the high-level meeting will undertake a comprehensive review of progress made in the 2016 Political Declaration towards ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 and how the response is contributing to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Prior to adoption, the Assembly, by a recorded vote of a vote of 77 in favour to 40 against, with 21 abstentions, approved an amendment — introduced by the United Kingdom’s representative — that will have the world body make a final decision on participation in the high-level meeting.
Another draft amendment and two proposed oral amendments, put forward by the Russian Federation’s representative, were rejected by recorded votes, amid a debate over whether the main text should retain a reference to “key populations” in the operative paragraph dealing with the interactive multi-stakeholder hearing.
Speakers from 30 Member States, as well as the European Union delegation, participated in the debate on Ukraine, seven years after conflict erupted in the eastern Donbas region and after the Russian Federation annexed Crimea following a referendum on its political status.
Many representatives took the floor to underscore their countries’ commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty, political independence, unity and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders. They urged full compliance with the Minsk agreements aimed at restoring peace in Donbas, unfettered access for humanitarian workers and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Special Monitoring Mission, and a halt to human rights abuses. They also warned that Crimea’s militarization threatens security in the Black Sea region.
Ukraine’s representative said that through joint efforts, the international community can not only restore his country’s territorial integrity, but also strengthen the authority of international law and return peace and stability to Europe. Sovereign control of Ukraine over its State borders should be renewed, he said, adding that United Nations peacekeepers could be deployed in a monitoring role. “It is often said that history is written in ink; luckily the Russian occupation laws are written in pencil and will be erased,” he said.
The Russian Federation’s delegate countered that the Ukrainian authorities, eagerly assisted by Western countries, are exploiting baseless allegations to ensure their own survival. Some believe the tale of Russian aggression, but sooner or later, the inconvenient truth about the 2014 Maidan protests in Independence Square in Kyiv will emerge, he said. Debates such as the one today will only alienate prospects for a settlement, he said, adding that Ukraine’s problems are its own responsibility — and that the sooner Kyiv understands that, the better.
In other business, the Assembly, taking up the draft decision titled “2021 United Nations Population Award” (document A/75/L.58), decided — without a vote — to extend the deadline for the submission of nominations for the Award to 22 March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The deadline typically falls on the last day of the year prior to the year for which nominations are considered.
Also speaking today were representative of Finland (on behalf of the Nordic and Baltic States), Canada (also on behalf of Australia and New Zealand), Slovakia, Switzerland, Spain, Germany, Italy, Czech Republic, Liechtenstein, France, Poland, Croatia, Costa Rica, United Kingdom, Slovenia, Bulgaria, United States, Netherlands, Japan, Hungary, Romania, Belarus, Turkey, Belgium, Azerbaijan, Syria, Georgia, Venezuela and the Republic of Moldova.
The General Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m., on 3 March, to take action on several draft resolutions, including one on the role of diamonds in fuelling conflict.
Situation in Temporarily Occupied Territories of Ukraine
VOLKAN BOZKIR (Turkey), President of the General Assembly, recalled that the United Nations was founded upon principles including recognizing the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States. Welcoming the ceasefire in Ukraine introduced in 2020, he encouraged the parties to engage with direct political dialogue. Recognizing the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, he reiterated the Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire.
SERGIY KYSLYTSYA (Ukraine) said the General Assembly will not accept the Russian Federation’s mantra that the case of Crimea is closed; it will be closed when Russian troops have left the temporarily occupied territories. Indeed, the Russian Federation continues its armed aggression against Ukraine, Georgia and other nations, he said, adding that Russian foreign policy remains unchanged since the United Nations was founded. Since the Russian Federation began its temporary occupation of Crimea in 2014, more than 13,000 people have died, including over 3,000 civilians, and approximately 1.5 million have become internally displaced persons, according to United Nations data. With 20 February marking the seventh year since the Russian Federation invaded Crimea, he recalled the Security Council’s 11 February meeting, which recognized that the ceasefire has been hobbled by Russian provocation and violations. Despite Ukraine’s efforts to advance progress in implementing the Minsk agreements and in Trilateral Contact Group talks, the Russian Federation still refuses to finalize decisions. Security remains crucial for de-escalation, he said, highlighting the current tense and fragile situation in the conflict zone. Sovereign control of Ukraine over its State border should be renewed, and United Nations peacekeepers, as one of the options, could play an important role in its monitoring, he said, adding that: “We are convinced that through joint efforts, we will not only restore Ukraine’s territorial integrity, but also strengthen the authority of international law and return peace and stability to the European continent.”
Raising concerns about conditions on the ground, he said Donbas continues to face threats of technogenic and environmental catastrophe, given that occupation authorities stopped pumping water in 2018 from the Yunkom mine, the site of a Soviet Government nuclear explosion. Radiation is already contaminating the surface and groundwaters, he said, calling on the United Nations to conduct assessments in the temporarily occupied territories of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Reminding the Russian Federation of its obligations as a party to the conflict, he said the prospects for a peaceful resolution will remain elusive until action is taken. Repetitive statements about the Russian Federation’s alleged mediation role in the Donbas peace process are outrageous, as it cannot hold such a role while having started and taken part in the conflict since the first day of aggression. As a party to the conflict and a non-elected Council member, the Russian Federation should not be allowed to use its veto power on this matter, he stressed.
The Assembly has clearly expressed itself on the situation in Crimea in its resolutions on militarization and human rights, he continued, noting that the Russian Federation has implemented none of them. Even during the pandemic and contrary to Security Council resolution 2532 (2020), the occupying Power seeks to destroy the identity of Ukrainians and the indigenous people of the peninsula — the Crimean Tatars. The Russian Federation has transferred 500,000 of its citizens to the peninsula, changing the composition of the local population, and occupation authorities have arbitrarily arrested Ukrainian citizens on the eve of today’s debate. Reports demonstrating that the Russian Federation violates international norms and principles include those by the Secretary-General, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), their missions, and the International Criminal Court Prosecutor. “If Russia doesn’t agree with all the mentioned resolutions and reports, it should simply provide access to Crimea to the United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine and the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission,” he said. To avoid further humanitarian catastrophes, he underlined the critical importance of granting international organizations access to the temporarily occupied territories. Ukraine guarantees such access throughout the Government-controlled territory and continues to demand from the Russian side to do the same on the temporarily occupied territories.
Noting Ukraine’s launch of the Crimean Platform as a new format to consolidate international efforts, he invited Member States to join the initiative, which will focus on five priority areas: non-recognition policy; security; effectiveness of sanctions; protection of human rights; and overcoming the negative impact of the temporary occupation of Crimea on the economy and the environment. Meanwhile, the Russian Parliament amended its criminal code and other laws in 2020 to make any questioning that Crimea belongs to the Russian Federation punishable by fines and imprisonment, with civil servants fined twice as much as citizens. Ukraine has proposed that the Russian Federation solve any existing disputes in international courts or by an ad hoc arbitration. In the International Court of Justice, Ukraine instituted a case against the Russian Federation on the interpretation and application of the International Conventions for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, and on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, with an order issued in 2017 on provisional measures. Yet, the Russian Federation continues to ignore this order. In January, the European Court of Human Rights ruled on the admissibility of an interstate claim in Ukraine’s case against the Russian Federation, rejecting Russia’s jurisdictional objections.
Ukraine will continue to take forward legal actions to hold the Russian Federation accountable for its violations of international law, he said. “It is often said that history is written in ink; luckily the Russian occupation laws are written in pencil and will be erased,” he said. “But, let me remind you that history of wars is written in blood, and all responsible will be brought to justice. The Russian Federation will be held fully responsible for all crimes committed against Ukraine and other countries it invaded and their citizens.”
SILVIO GONZATO, European Union, said the Russian Federation’s illegal annexation of Crimea remains a direct challenge to global security, with grave implications for the international legal order protecting State territorial integrity, unity and sovereignty. Reaffirming the bloc’s condemnation and consistent non-recognition of the illegal annexation, he said: “The issue is not only a serious bilateral or European concern, but a global one”, and the bloc will continue to support Ukraine’s resilience. Welcoming Ukraine’s efforts to continue seeking justice through international legal instruments and courts, he called for respect for judicial decisions and their timely implementation. The ongoing Russian militarization of the Crimean Peninsula continues to negatively impact the security situation in the Black Sea region and beyond, he said, calling on that country to not impede the lawful exercise of navigational rights and freedoms to and from the Sea of Azov in line with international law. Noting that the human rights situation in the peninsula has severely deteriorated, he called for the release of prisoners, including Crimean Tatars, who have been targeted. Human rights and international humanitarian law abuses must be investigated and perpetrators brought to justice.
The Russian Federation, he continued, must immediately release all illegally detained Ukrainian citizens, stop changing Crimea’s demographic structure by resettling its own civilian population there and take steps to improve the peninsula’s environmental situation, which has considerably worsened. All sides must implement the Minsk agreements and honour their commitment to achieve a sustainable political solution. Deploring that recent spikes in ceasefire violations and sniper activity have led to military personnel casualties, he called on the Russian Federation to exert its considerable influence over the armed formations it backs to ensure that the ceasefire is fully implemented; to stop fuelling the conflict by providing financial and military support; and to cease issuing Russian passports in large numbers to Ukrainian citizens. “Civilians are the ones paying the heaviest price when the sides do not adhere to the ceasefire, when they do not withdraw heavy weapons and when they do not remove mines, but instead are laying new ones,” he said.
Welcoming Ukraine’s inclusive approach towards the population of the conflict-affected areas in the east and south-east, he commended easier civilian crossing points over the Stanytsia Luhanska Bridge but remained concerned that other points along the line of contact remain closed. The Russian Federation should use its influence over the armed formations it backs to reopen all existing crossing points. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) should be granted full, unconditional access to all detained persons. Turning to the increasing impact of the volatile security situation in eastern Ukraine on the civilian population, he said protecting the water, energy and other utilities’ supply across the line of contact and mitigating environmental risk are key to prevent the situation from worsening, as is prompt implementation of the mine action law. The conflict has meant 3.4 million Ukrainians still need humanitarian aid, he said, calling on the sides to respect international humanitarian law and pledging the bloc’s support for the important work of humanitarian organizations.
JUKKA SALOVAARA (Finland), speaking on behalf of Baltic and Nordic countries, said the group stands by Ukraine and strongly condemns the Russian Federation’s aggression. Deeply worried by the deteriorating human rights and humanitarian situation in Crimea, he called on the Russian Federation to abide by its international obligations, urging it to release all illegally detained and imprisoned Ukrainian nationals, respect its human rights and humanitarian law commitments and ensure humanitarian actors have full access to all areas. Highlighting grave concerns about the militarization of Crimea and worsening humanitarian conditions in eastern Ukraine, he said almost 14,000 people have died and over 30,000 have been wounded. Older persons and children are in the most vulnerable situation, yet international organizations are not able to function freely in the non-Government controlled areas due to restrictions imposed by the Russia-backed armed formations. In addition, the pandemic has been used as a pretext to excessively restrict crossings of the contact line.
There is no military solution to the conflict, he said. It can only be resolved through political dialogue and implementation of the Minsk agreements. Underlining the Russian Federation’s key responsibility and commitments in this respect, he recalled that the duration of the European Union’s economic sanctions remains clearly linked to full implementation of the Minsk agreements. While the ceasefire has improved the security landscape, there has been no further progress in political dialogue and violations frequently occur. Expressing support for ongoing efforts, including by the Normandy format, he commended Ukraine’s political will and constructive approach to finding ways to resolve the conflict and urged the Russian Federation to act likewise. Reiterating support for the Special Monitoring Mission and its valuable work, he deplored frequent restrictions in the non-Government controlled areas and urged the Russian Federation to use its considerable influence over the armed formations it backs to remove all undue restrictions that hamper the Mission’s ability to implement its mandate. Respect for international law and a rules-based world order are essential for common security and multilateral cooperation, he said, calling on members of the international community to adopt non-recognition policies in line with Assembly resolution 68/262.
ROBERT KEITH RAE (Canada), speaking also on behalf of Australia and New Zealand, said that the toll of the past seven years — some 13,000 killed, 1.5 million internally displaced persons and 3.4 million in need of humanitarian assistance — is “simply enormous”, with the pandemic compounding the plight of civilians in conflict areas. He underscored his country’s full and unequivocal commitment to uphold the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and to support its people and Government. The rights of the people of eastern Ukraine must be upheld, he said, attributing ongoing violence to a lack of political will and excessive abuse of power. All sides must disengage fully and implement a comprehensive ceasefire in Donbas with full respect for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, as set out in the Minsk agreements. He called on the Russian Federation to immediately withdraw from Ukraine all armed formations, military equipment and mercenaries and to return to Kyiv full control of its international borders.
He called for the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to be given full and unhindered access to all areas, and welcomed ongoing efforts to pursue truth, justice and accountability for the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 on 17 July 2014. Turning to the situation in Crimea, he said that the international community must keep shining a light on events in the peninsula. He expressed deep concern about the Russian Federation’s militarization of Crimea as well as the human rights situation, including abuses involving Crimean Tartars. The Russian Federation must immediately and unconditionally release all unlawfully detained political prisoners. He went on to say that Canada, together with Australia and New Zealand, will continue to put pressure on the Russian Federation, including economic sanctions.
MICHAL MLYNÁR (Slovakia), associating himself with the European Union, and noting a recent visit to Kyiv by his country’s Minister for Foreign and European Affairs, said that the security situation in occupied Crimea remains dire, with military activities on and around the peninsula jeopardizing security in the region. He called for regional and international human rights monitoring mechanisms to be given unimpeded access to Crimea and expressed regret that the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission still lacks unhindered access to all areas, including uncontrolled border areas. While the 27 July 2020 ceasefire is largely holding, spikes in the number of ceasefire violations and casualties are worrying. Almost seven years since the crisis began, all sides must engage constructively and in good faith to implement the Minsk agreements. Ukraine is Slovakia’s close friend and largest neighbor and it is in its strategic interest to have a stable, secure and prosperous Ukraine, he said.
PASCALE CHRISTINE BAERISWYL (Switzerland) expressed concern over the human rights violations listed in the Secretary-General’s report, including the recruitment of Ukrainian nationals in Crimea into the Russian Federation’s armed forces — a clear violation of international law by the occupying Power. She noted that Ukraine was among the first to support the Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire and appealed to all stakeholders to stop ceasefire violations. Noting that talks within the Trilateral Contact Group are at an impasse, she urged all sides to strengthen their commitments, adding that lasting solutions can only be found if everyone works together constructively. She went on to say that the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission must be able to fulfil its mandate. Hopefully, tangible outcomes will be possible, thus improving living conditions for civilians.
MARÍA BASSOLS DELGADO (Spain) raised a range of concerns, from frequent ceasefire violations to mounting humanitarian challenges, calling on parties to, among other things, allow unfettered access to all areas for United Nations agencies and the ICRC. She also called for ending obstacles facing the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission and for re-establishing normality at crossing points. Noting that the Russian Federation continues issuing passports to Donbas residents, she said Spain will not recognize these documents. Also pointing to ongoing violations of agreements and the harmful impact of the rail and bridge projects in the Crimea area, she welcomed the General Assembly’s debate of the issue until a resolution to the conflict is found.
CHRISTOPH HEUSGEN (Germany), associating himself with the European Union, said the situation is the most blatant violation of international law since the Second World War, highlighting historical agreements, including the Budapest Memorandum, and current human rights violations. The Crimean Tatars are being targeted, and the Russian Federation has turned Crimea into a launching pad, with military indoctrination of children and forced conscription. The Russian Federation claims that the world is beautiful in Crimea, he said, wondering why Russian officials continue to prevent assessment teams from visiting the area. In eastern Ukraine, Russian militias continue to violate ceasefire agreements, with 94 per cent of OSCE-identified incidents attributed to the separatists. Spotlighting other concerns, he said the Russian Federation continues to issue passports and violates human rights and humanitarian law.
STEFANO STEFANILE (Italy), aligning himself with the European Union, echoed concerns about humanitarian conditions. Calling for human rights law on the Crimean Peninsula to be fully respected, he said humanitarian workers must be granted full access to the area. Anticipating the implementation of the Paris Summit’s recommendations, he remained encouraged that both sides would work towards resolving the conflict. There is no alternative to the Minsk agreements, he said, calling on the Russian Federation to assume its responsibility. The role of the Special Monitoring Mission is essential and Mission personnel must be granted unconditional access throughout Ukraine. Italy is actively engaged in the humanitarian response to address the needs of civilians, but much more needs to be done, he said, calling on all sides to take measures to, among other things, open new crossing points.
GEORG HELMUT ERNST SPARBER (Liechtenstein) regretted that the Security Council is unable to support OSCE efforts to bring peace to Ukraine through political and concrete actions. He underscored his country’s contribution to humanitarian efforts, with a particular focus on vulnerable groups, and called for the ICRC and other international organizations to be given full access to all areas and to all people in need of assistance. He expressed concern about ceasefire violations and trench-building activities and warned that the ceasefire will fray in the absence of negotiations. He went on to call on Ukraine to ratify the Rome Statute, thus sending a strong message that the Government is willing to address impunity for international crimes, irrespective of who the perpetrators are.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France), associating himself with the European Union, said that the militarization of Crimea is an alarming source of tension. The Russian Federation must guarantee freedom of navigation for all vessels through the Kerch Strait. He also urged that country to improve the environmental situation in Crimea, which has worsened significantly. Human rights violations must cease and perpetrators must be held accountable before the courts. He added that the Russian Federation must stop its efforts to change Crimea’s demographic make-up. Together with Germany, France will pursue efforts under the Normandy format to restore peace and Ukrainian sovereignty in Donbas, he said, adding that his country will not accept the Russian Federation’s attempts to blame the current stalemate entirely on Kyiv.
JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland), associating herself with the European Union, said that non-recognition of the Russian Federation’s claim of sovereignty over Crimea is not a political decision, but a legal requirement under international law. She urged the Russian Federation to engage constructively to achieve a positive solution to the conflict in Donbas and called on that country to release all illegally detained Ukrainians without delay. While Ukraine’s leaders have shown political will to end the conflict, the Russian Federation treats negotiations in the Normandy format and the Trilateral Contact Group as an opportunity to expand its list of demands. Poland supports General Assembly and Human Rights Council resolutions on the situation in Ukraine and it will never recognize the annexation of Crimea.
IVAN ŠIMONOVIĆ (Croatia), associating himself with the European Union, expressed its full support for the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders. He affirmed his delegation’s consistent position of non-recognition of the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation, as an act contrary to international law. Croatia remains deeply concerned by the crisis in and around Ukraine and its impact on the region. He welcomed the mutual release of conflict-related detainees, noting that such a human-centred step proved to build confidence in the former Yugoslavia, and added that he was particularly encouraged by United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission reports that civilian casualties from exchange of fire have decreased significantly since extra steps have been taken to strengthen the July 2020 ceasefire. He voiced concern about restrictions on the freedom of movement of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission, calling for safe, unimpeded access for the Mission and international human right observers. Also worrisome are high levels of landmines and unexploded ordnance contamination, he said, calling for greater demining efforts.
MARITZA CHAN VALVERDE (Costa Rica) called on Ukraine and the Russian Federation to fulfil and implement the Minsk agreements and urged the Normandy format members to meet as early as possible with a view to resolving the conflict. Reiterating concerns about the unprecedented militarization of Crimea, she regretted to note its enormous humanitarian impact, especially during the pandemic. There are an estimated 3.4 million people who will require humanitarian assistance in 2021. Alarmed by continued landmine deaths and injuries, she called for demining action. In addition, the Special Monitoring Mission must have full access throughout occupied areas so it can carry out its valuable work. Welcoming the introduction of a strengthened ceasefire agreement, she said that despite occasional violations, this measure has significantly had a positive impact on civilians. Deeply concerned about restrictions on freedoms in occupied areas, she called on parties to ensure access to basic services. Turning to achievements, she commended a prisoner release arrangement, calling on both sides to work more broadly towards a sustainable political solution.
JONATHAN GUY ALLEN (United Kingdom) said the Russian Federation broke the first principle of international law, flagrantly violating the United Nations Charter and existing agreements. The Assembly has reaffirmed Ukraine’s sovereignty over its territory, he said, reiterating that the United Kingdom will never recognize the Russian Federation’s occupation and that “Crimea is a part of Ukraine”. Calling attention to conditions facing political prisoners, he called on the Russian Federation to release them and to grant access to humanitarian organizations in all occupied areas. Concerned about the 32,000 Russian military personnel in Crimea and missile warning systems, he called on the Russian Federation to withdraw troops and leave the peninsula and cease such unacceptable actions as forcible conscription and displacement of civilians. The Russian Federation continues to incite and support military activities in eastern Ukraine, he said, condemning the systematic denial of access in non-Government-controlled areas. Welcoming the drop in violence since the July 2020 ceasefire, he said this demonstrates the strength of political will. However, the Russian Federation continues to fuel the conflict, resulting in thousands of deaths and injuries, 1.4 million internally displaced persons and 3.4 million people needing humanitarian assistance.
SAŠA JUREČKO (Slovenia), associating herself with the European Union, said the ongoing militarization of the Crimea Peninsula poses serious challenges to the security and stability in the Black Sea region and beyond. Expressing full support for the Normandy format, the Trilateral Contact Group and OSCE, she commended their restless efforts in facilitating the peaceful resolution of the conflict in eastern Ukraine. She called on all parties to allow unimpeded delivery of humanitarian aid and underscored the crucial need for humanitarian demining, disengagement and withdrawal of heavy weapons along the contact line. The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission must have full access to the entire territory of Ukraine, including Crimea, she said, deploring continued restrictions on freedom of movement. Slovenia also remains deeply concerned about human rights violations and abuses in the peninsula, primarily targeted at Crimean Tatars, ethnic Ukrainians, and other ethnic minorities, and is highly disturbed by reports of enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions, sexual violence, torture, and other forms of human rights abuses. She called on the Russian Federation to uphold its international commitments and provide international human rights observers full, free and unrestricted access to the entire territory of Ukraine, including Crimea.
LACHEZARA STOIANOVA STOEVA (Bulgaria), associating herself with the European Union, regretted that the overall situation in Ukraine remains fragile. She underscored Bulgaria’s strong commitment to the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission, noting that her country is one of the biggest contributors of monitoring officers. She added that as a Black Sea littoral State, Bulgaria shares the concerns about the Russian Federation’s ongoing militarization of the Crimean Peninsula. That is having a severe negative impact on the security situation in the wider Black Sea region. She went on to say that full restoration of the freedom of passage through the Kerch Strait, in accordance with international law, is key to preventing a further escalation in the Black Sea and the Azov Sea areas.
RICHARD M. MILLS, JR. (United States), emphasizing his country’s determination to uphold Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, urged Member States to support General Assembly resolutions calling attention to the human rights situation and militarization of Crimea. The United States does not recognize the peninsula’s annexation by the Russian Federation and it will keep sanctions in place until that country reverses course. It is troubling to report that the Russian Federation has stepped up its efforts to destabilize Ukraine while also falsely presenting itself as a mediator when it is in fact the instigator of the crisis. He described the militarization of Crimea as a serious and growing threat to common security, adding that there is no question that the Russian Federation is continuing to fuel this deadly conflict. He called on the Russian Federation to grant and facilitate safe, timely and unhindered access to all humanitarian workers and to OSCE and United Nations monitors in those areas under its control. He went on to call on the Russian Federation to withdraw its forces in Ukraine, stop supporting proxy groups and implement its Minsk commitments while also working with the Government and international partners for a diplomatic solution.
YOKA BRANDT (Netherlands), associating herself with the European Union, said that the human suffering must end. The Russian Federation must respect human rights in Crimea and allow full access for human rights monitors. “In Ukraine, our international rule book is in jeopardy,” she said, adding that it is high time that the General Assembly resolution confirming Ukraine’s unity and territorial integrity is implemented. Turning to the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, which took the lives of 298 civilians from 17 countries, including her own, she called for truth, justice and accountability “because that is what the victims and their next of kin deserve”. Noting that a criminal trial of four suspects has started, she called on all countries, including the Russian Federation, to cooperate with the ongoing investigation.
NAMAZU HIROYUKI (Japan) said that his country expects all concerned parties to pursue dialogue. He expressed concern at reports into how the COVID-19 pandemic is aggravating the humanitarian and human rights situation on the ground, adding that all parties must implement the ceasefire agreement and undertake confidence-building measures.
ZSUZSANNA HORVÁTH (Hungary) said the pandemic has worsened an already alarming situation, including human rights violations, conditions for civilians, the detainment of political prisoners and violence. Hungary has contributed to humanitarian aid to address related challenges, delivering medical equipment and other essential items. Acknowledging the multifaceted challenges facing Ukraine, she regretted to note that the rights of linguistic minorities are in decline. It is unacceptable that Ukraine continues to intimidate minority groups, she said, pointing out that more than 100,000 Hungarians live in Ukraine and encouraging authorities to respect and exercise rights enshrined in relevant international conventions and United Nations resolutions.
ILEANA-RODICA DINCULESCU (Romania), associating herself with the European Union, condemned the illegal annexation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol by the Russian Federation, which violates the principles and norms of international law and continues to affect the stability and security in the Black Sea region and the Euro-Atlantic area. Drawing attention to the deteriorating security and humanitarian situation in eastern Ukraine, she noted that in 2020 Romania provided €150,000 to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. She called for the peaceful resolution of the conflict in Donbas and the restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, urging the Russian Federation to fully implement its commitments under the Minsk agreements.
ARTSIOM TOZIK (Belarus) said there is no alternative to peaceful dialogue to end the crisis, with the parties fully implementing the Minsk agreements. Belarus has contributed to various efforts and remains willing to discuss a United Nations peacekeeping mission to the area, if the parties to the conflict consent to it. More broadly, a new revitalized international dialogue must focus on, among other things, efforts to ensure shared security and sustainable peace among nations.
RAZIYE BILGE KOCYIGIT GRBA (Turkey), noting that her delegation does not recognize the annexation of Crimea, based on legal and moral considerations, said Turkey remains deeply concerned about the detention and political trials of Crimean Tatars. Turkey will work towards protecting their rights and is committed to support peace efforts. The Minsk agreements remain the only way forward, and, in this vein, the Special Monitoring Mission must be allowed to discharge its mandate.
DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation) said that the authorities in Ukraine, eagerly assisted by Western countries, are exploiting baseless allegations to ensure their own survival. Some believe the tale of Russian aggression, but sooner or later, the inconvenient truth about the 2014 Maidan protests in Independence Square in Kyiv will emerge. It is far easier to mislead everyone, as the Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine did recently when he claimed, contrary to the facts, that 7,000 troops from the Russian Federation are in Donbas. Recalling that the people of Crimea have the right to self-determination, he said that millions of Ukrainians continue to vacation on the peninsula, leaving positive reviews on social media. He added that the “Maidan madness” and the geopolitical interests of Western countries have created a haven of nationalist and anti-Russian sentiment. Today’s debate in the Assembly is genuinely damaging for residents of Donbas, where the Ukrainian army has intensified shelling, using weapons prohibited under the Minsk agreements.
Recalling meetings by the Security Council in 2020 on Crimea and Donbas, he said it is clearly a myth that the Ukrainian Government is committed to the Minsk agreements. He quoted Ukrainian officials as claiming that those agreements have expired and that they have become a millstone around the country’s neck. It is telling who is calling the shots, he said, adding that games and machinations on the part of Ukraine and Western countries risk having adverse consequences. He wondered how people in Donetsk and Luhansk would want to return to Ukraine when residential areas were being subjected to shelling, sabotage and subversion. The use of the Russian language has been prohibited in Ukraine and just a few weeks ago, three opposition television channels were shut down. Meanwhile, the economic situation is worsening. Debates such as the one today will only alienate prospects for a settlement, he said, adding that Ukraine’s problems are its own responsibility and that the sooner Kyiv understands that, the better.
The representative of Belgium commended recent achievements, but raised concerns about ceasefire violations, reiterating that all parties must fully implement the Minsk agreements to resolve the conflict. The crisis and pandemic have had a serious impact on civilians, and the parties should work towards finding a peaceful solution and ensuring the prompt delivery of humanitarian aid. Gravely concerned about the conflict’s physical and psychological consequences on children, she called for efforts to address these issues, including opening schools and undertaking demining projects. Concerned about the situation on the Crimean Peninsula, she called on the Russian Federation to release prisoners and respect human rights, emphasizing that Belgium does not recognize the occupation.
The representative of Azerbaijan, highlighting the current situation in Ukraine, raised several concerns. In terms of how to move towards a resolution of the conflict, he said it was of utmost importance to ensure the strict compliance by all parties with accepted norms and principles of international law. Indeed, respecting and honouring these commitments are critical in the maintenance of international peace and security.
The representative of Syria said some Governments are trying to “settle scores” with the Russian Federation. However, this matter is governed by legal principles based on the United Nations Charter and by the Minsk agreements. Highlighting harmful interference by those who claim to be working in the interest of Ukraine, he said some States are creating fictious enemies and are manipulating the United Nations to polarize the world and not to foster peace and stability.
The representative of Georgia said that in addition to a deteriorating situation on the ground, a hybrid war against Ukraine is unfolding, with cyberattacks and propaganda. Landmines continue to cause harm and deaths, he said, calling for demining action. Condemning the policy of forced Russian citizenship and conscription, he said his delegation was alarmed that even during the pandemic, restrictions persist for aid groups to reach certain areas. The Russian Federation’s aggression is nothing new, he said, noting its attacks against Georgia. Reiterating his delegation’s firm support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and calling on other States to refrain from any actions that would recognize the occupation, he said the Russian Federation must fulfil all its international obligations.
The representative of Venezuela said that Security Council resolution 2202 (2015), which endorsed the Minsk agreements, offers a sound basis for a peaceful settlement based on international law. The issue is one that mostly concerns the two interested parties and any solution outside of that context will not work unless it is supported by those parties. He warned against politicizing the work of the General Assembly or using the Assembly to attack a Member State, especially in these pandemic times.
The representative of the Republic of Moldova, associating himself with the European Union, said that in matters arising from challenges to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Member States, the General Assembly can encourage and promote approaches and solutions based on the strict observance of the international law and the United Nations Charter. The Republic of Moldova supports the international efforts aimed at identifying a peaceful solution to the conflict in the Eastern regions of Ukraine, based on the Minsk agreements and under the auspices of the Normandy format. The deployment of a United Nations peacekeeping mission on the ground, in accordance with Ukraine’s requests, that would act in unison with the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission, could give impetus to the political process of a peaceful settlement.
United Nations Population Award
The Assembly then took up the draft decision titled “2021 United Nations Population Award” (document A/75/L.58). Through that text, it would decide to extend the deadline for the submission of nominations for the Award to 22 March, on an exceptional basis, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It adopted the draft decision without a vote.
Organization of 2021 High-level Meeting on HIV-AIDS
The Assembly then took up the draft resolution, submitted by its President, titled “Organization of the 2021 high-level meeting on HIV/AIDS” (document A/75/L.59). By its terms, it would decide to convene a high-level meeting from 8 to 10 June to undertake a comprehensive review of the progress on the commitments made in the 2016 Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS: On the Fast Track to Accelerating the Fight against HIV and to Ending the AIDS Epidemic by 2030. That same meeting would also discuss how the global response to HIV/AIDS — in its social, economic and political dimensions — contributes optimally to progress on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Mr. BOZKIR (Turkey), President of the Assembly, thanked the representatives of Australia and Namibia for co-facilitating “L.59”, which sets out the modalities of the high-level meeting.
The representative of the United Kingdom introduced a draft amendment (document A/75/L.60) that would add language to operative paragraph 11 that would have the Assembly make a final decision on participation in the high-level meeting. Over the years, civil society has played a critical role in the response to HIV/AIDS, but language in the resolution that preceded the 2016 high-level meeting allowed a handful of Member States to arbitrarily block the participation of 22 groups. The draft amendment would simply give decision-making power to the Assembly as a whole, and not to any one Member State, he said.
The representative of the Russian Federation introduced a draft amendment (document A/75/L.61) that would delete the words “including key populations” from operative paragraph 8, which would request the President of the Assembly to organize, no later than April, an interactive multi-stakeholder meeting as part of the preparatory process for the high-level meeting. He noted that during negotiations on the draft resolution, Member States were unable to reach consensus on that paragraph.
The representative of the Secretariat read a statement detailing the arrangements for the high-level meeting.
The representative of the United Kingdom, in an explanation of position on “L.61”, said that removing the reference to key populations is an attempt to ignore the fact that such groups are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS. He noted that the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) defines key populations as those most likely to be exposed to the disease.
The representative of the United States said that her delegation also does not support “L.61”. At a time when the World Health Organization (WHO) has underscored the importance of prioritizing the health concerns of the most vulnerable, the Russian Federation’s draft amendment does the opposite.
The representative of the Russian Federation requested that “L.60” be put to a vote.
The Assembly then adopted draft amendment “L.60” by a vote of 77 in favour to 40 against, with 21 abstentions.
It then rejected draft amendment “L.61” by a vote of 30 in favour to 91 against, with 14 abstentions.
The representative of the Russian Federation proposed an oral amendment, called operative paragraph 11.bis, through which the Assembly would decide that the arrangements outlined in operative paragraph 11 shall not be considered a precedent for other similar events.
The representative of the United Kingdom said that he objected to the proposed oral amendment, stating that the Russian Federation is attempting “by the back door” to bind the Assembly’s hands on future decisions.
The representative of Portugal invited Member States to vote against the proposed oral amendment.
The Assembly then rejected the proposed oral amendment by a vote of 34 in favour to 78 against, with 18 abstentions.
The representative of the Russian Federation proposed a second oral amendment to operative paragraph 8 that would include a footnote whereby each Member State would independently determine what population is key to their HIV/AIDS response, based on their respective contexts.
The representative of the United States said that it is inappropriate to introduce such an oral amendment on the Assembly floor, given the importance of collective action on HIV/AIDS. She added that the proposal is clearly an attempt to politicize the language of a draft resolution that deals with the modalities of the high-level meeting.
The representative of Portugal said that it is not appropriate to weaken language used by UNAIDS nor is it correct to introduce such language at the last minute.
The representative of the United Kingdom said that the proposed oral amendment is an unfortunate attempt to ambush the Assembly following several months of negotiations on the main draft. It is also slightly bizarre, as nothing the Assembly does has impeded a Member State from doing what it wants to do when it comes to addressing the epidemic.
The representative of Saudi Arabia said that if the co-facilitators of the main text had listened to all opinions, this discussion in the Assembly would not be taking place. He regretted that amendments proposed by some Member States during negotiations were not taken on board, adding that on this issue, his delegation would associate itself with the Russian Federation.
The Assembly rejected the oral amendment by a vote of 30 in favour to 81 against, with 18 abstentions.
The representative of the Russian Federation then requested a vote on “L.59,” saying that it failed to take into account the majority of proposals made by his delegation and supported by other Member States.
The Assembly adopted “L.59” as amended by a vote of 139 in favour to none against, with 5 abstentions (Algeria, Egypt, Madagascar, Russian Federation, Syria).
The representative of the United States said her delegation voted in favour of the resolution, while preferring that it would have been adopted by consensus. Raising several concerns, she anticipated more discussions about these important issues at the forthcoming high-level meeting.
The representative of Belarus said her delegation voted in favour of the resolution, reflecting its support for ongoing efforts to fight AIDS. The upcoming high-level meeting is an important platform to strengthen that fight. The resolution is important in strengthening the meeting’s modalities, but she raised concerns about the manner in which discussions unfolded. Belarus had voted to delete the term “key populations” from the relevant paragraphs and supported the Russian Federation’s proposed oral amendment. Her delegation voted against the amendment to “L.60”, because, among other things, it limits the prerogatives of Member States.
The representative of the Russian Federation said his delegation abstained on the resolution, which was neither balanced nor transparent. As such, his delegation had been unable to submit proposals during the negotiations. The Russian Federation agrees with the goal of combating AIDS and supports the resolution’s relevance and convening a high-level meeting. However, it is disappointing that certain delegations are using this sort of resolution to force through contentious provisions and are undermining the unity of the General Assembly. The problem is in certain States’ consistent desire to erode the intergovernmental nature of the Assembly’s decision-making. Given these conditions, he disassociated his delegation from operative paragraphs 8 and 11.
The representative of China said the United Nations must ensure the Organization’s intergovernmental nature and uphold the Charter. China opposes some countries’ actions that deviate from consensus that had previously been reached on the participation of non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Efforts should strengthen the capacity of States in combating AIDS, he said, adding that China stands ready for constructive participation in the forthcoming meeting.
The representative of Indonesia said his delegation voted in favour of the resolution, but has reservations about operative paragraph 8, as terms are not in line with national principles.
The representative of Saudi Arabia said he supports the Russian Federation’s proposal and had reservations about operative paragraphs 8 and 11.
The representative of Qatar said his delegation voted in favour of holding the high-level meeting, especially in light of setbacks in the fight against AIDS due to the pandemic. However, he voiced reservations about operative paragraph 8, which must be in line with national contexts.
The representative of Senegal commended the convening of the high-level meeting, but said her delegation had reservations about the term “key populations” in operative paragraph 8.
The representative of Japan said that while supporting the fight against AIDS, the issues should be integrated into a broader health approach. Initiatives from civil society groups must be recognized, he said, anticipating meaningful discussions among NGOs at the forthcoming meeting.
The representative of Iraq said that his country attaches great importance to the fight against HIV/AIDS, but it disassociates itself from the term “key populations” in operative paragraph 8. He added that “L.60” creates a precedent and paves the way for different interpretations that might not lead to constructive approaches.
The representative of Namibia, speaking also on behalf of Australia, said that since the start of the epidemic, 76 million people have been infected with HIV and 33 million have died from AIDS-related illnesses. There have been many gains, with WHO dropping HIV/AIDS from its top 10 list of leading causes of death, but many challenges remain. Moreover, the world has yet to meet its 2030 target for eradicating the disease, with the COVID-19 pandemic further threatening progress due to the diversion of health-care resources. He regretted that the modalities resolution was put to a vote, but the text marks an important first step towards the high-level meeting, giving the Assembly President and UNAIDS a mandate to start preparations. While the draft resolution was not perfect for some delegations, it represents the best balance. This year’s high-level meeting will look different from previous ones, but it will still be an opportunity for all stakeholders to participate in the shaping of a political declaration that reflects the progress made and the challenges that lay ahead in the global response to HIV/AIDS.
The representative of Canada expressed concern about the criticism levelled by several speakers about the nature of negotiations on “L.59”. The permanent representatives of Australia and Namibia and their respective delegations, as co-facilitators, were respectful and afforded ample time to all participants, working until the eleventh hour on the text.
The representative of Algeria said that operative paragraph 11 should not set a precedent.
The representative of Sudan said his delegation voted in favour because it is convinced that it is important to fight HIV/AIDS. However, it has reservations about the term “key populations”.
The representative of Syria disassociated himself from the term “key populations” and the amendment contained in “L.60”.
An observer for the European Union delegation, citing recent statistics on AIDS and groups affected, welcomed references to “key populations” in the resolution. Her delegation also supported language that brings back power to civil society organizations. More broadly, efforts must reach those most in need, and such language enables the sharing of broad experiences, she said, adding that there is no reason to be afraid of hearing from all groups.