26 October 2016

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OpinionUN General Assembly: Ukraine’s plans

I’ve attended three sessions of the UN General Assembly. In 2014, the session was remembered by sincere and emotional performances of Ukrainian delegation – at the time, emotions and sincerity had an advantage over factual data. That’s because, in conditions of sudden Russian aggression, it was necessary to show who the aggressor and who the victim is. The whole world got it clear.

The result was the Resolution of the UN General Assembly on the territorial integrity of Ukraine, which condemned the annexation of Crimea and called Crimea Ukrainian territory. That resolution was supported by 100 UN member states and only 11 voted against it. Up to these days, it is dubbed "Russia+10".

The General Assembly session of 2015 has totally convinced the international community, what has actually happened and what is happening in Crimea and Donbas. The world has also understood, where the kitchen is where the conflict was “cooking”. The smell was so strong and putrid that by the beginning of the 71st Session of the General Assembly, everyone knew that the stench was coming from behind the Kremlin walls.

But the United Nations has become hostage to its own rules, set up by WWII victors more than 70 years ago.

The world has changed since then but the old rules remain. This means that if a permanent member of the UN Security Council gives a ‘no’ vote [blocking or exercising a "veto" right on the decision or the resolution of the Security Council], the issue will never break free of a deadlock. That’s what happens with the resolution of the conflict in Syria, Russia's invasion of Donbas, and the illegal annexation of Crimea.

Hence the debate on a complete reform of both the Security Council and the UN as a whole. Incidentally, France had already put forward the initiative during the 2013 UN General Assembly session, which was supported by the president of Mexico. Its essence was to limit the use of veto, not eliminate it. To restrict the veto use in cases where there is a threat to human rights and a threat to people’s lives.

The United Nations has become hostage to its own rules, set up by WWII victors more than 70 years ago

In two years, at the 70th General Assembly session, the issue was raised once again. But there’s still a long road to go to a practical implementation of this initiative.

Meanwhile, Moscow’s resistance allows for neither advancing in Syrian settlement, nor in resolving the conflict in Donbas and Crimea, that’s because Russia’s interests are involved. And under such circumstances, Ukraine has chosen different tactics of diplomatic battles.

On the opening day of the 71st UN General Assembly session, Ukraine’s Permanent Representative Volodymyr Yelchenko shared with me these new tactics. "Massive Attack": if it is difficult to circumvent Russia's veto at the UNSC, then we open a "second front" – at the General Assembly. "There are things that, say, are easier to do within the framework of the General Assembly, rather than within the UN Security Council. There is a track [the Security Council], and we are following it, but at the General Assembly, we will be able, for example, to raise the issue of human rights in Crimea," said the Ambassador.

Ukraine’s "secret weapon" will become the new resolution, which, if adopted, will be even more resonant than the famous resolution on Ukraine's territorial integrity. "We have prepared a draft resolution, which is now completing the agreement stage, and we already have a very large, powerful group of countries, which support us. And not only support – they are ready to work with other countries to persuade them to support us. That is, we are establishing the ‘second front’ of a sort,” said Yelchenko. In In fact, support for Ukraine in the General Assembly is a very important thing because it shows directly the level of support for Ukraine at the UN in general.

Besides, Ukraine’s "new diplomatic weapon" is dangerous for the Kremlin because it will include such terms as "occupation" and "annexation". And the group of countries supporting Ukraine is ready to vote for the document with such wording.

"This resolution is not just about human rights in Crimea, it will contain a range of provisions that are important to us in the context of such terms as "occupation", "annexation " all of these things that can be found almost nowhere else in the UN decisions, and it is important to have at least some document, the first one! And then, to be continued..." says Volodymyr Yelchenko.

In fact, support for Ukraine in the General Assembly is a very important thing because it shows directly the level of support for Ukraine at the UN in general

But Ukraine’s main task at this General Assembly, according to the Ambassador, is as follows: "As I said, I believe that Ukraine’s main task is to keep everyone’s focus in each committee and in each body of the General Assembly on issues that concern Ukraine – Crimea and Donbas. And it is not only during plenary sessions in a format of 193."

Those working at Ukraine’s Mission to the UN claim that if they fail to remind everyone of Crimea and Donbas every day, the issues will be forgotten after a while, unfortunately, there are such trends and examples.

Hence, the Mission of Ukraine to the UN is planning a massive attack on committees. "If we talk about Crimea – it’s about nuclear arms. Crimea today, in fact, has become a huge military base. Moreover, they’ve been prepping capacities for a possible use of nuclear weapons. All of this will be discussed at the First Committee... In the Sixth Committee, the Legal one, we will talk about the consequences of Crimea annexation, in the form of an actual waste of Ukrainian property, seizure of our oil fields, ships, boats, the fleet, and the entire infrastructure on the Crimean peninsula in general... The Second Committee will hear economic issues, Chornobyl ... That is, we will find an opportunity to remind of ourselves in almost every major committee of the UN General Assembly," Volodymyr Yelchenko said.

Implementation of the plan started from yesterday – plenary meetings of the General Assembly started September 14.

In a week’s time, a "high segment" will launch with the participation of nearly 150 presidents, prime ministers, and foreign ministers of the 193 UN member states.

Andriy Vasyliev

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