No concessions but restauration of Ukrainian sovereignty
Side-event Ukraine - Statement by Mr. François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations - Security Council - 17 March 2016
It is a great honor to be here with you this afternoon and I would like to start by thanking the Mission of Ukraine and my collegue and friend Volodymyr Yelchenko in particular, for their initiative and their invitation.
You can count on France’s strong commitment to the settlement of the current crisis in Ukraine. This is one of the messages that President Hollande, alongside with Chancelor Merkel, reiterated to President Porochenko during their meeting earlier today in Brussels.
The first point I would like to touch upon is why the GA resolution we are discussing today still constitutes a key reference towards any lasting solution to the crisis in Ukraine.
A bit less than two years ago, it is no less than a hundred members of our Organization which voted in favor of a text enouncing four clear principles that we should never forget : (1) a commitment towards the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders ; (2) the rejection of any attempts to modify Ukraine’s borders through the threat or the use of force ; (3) the refusal to recognize the legitimacy of the referendum held on March 16th 2014 ; (4) a call to all parties to pursue immediately the peaceful resolution of the situation.
This vote was critically important. Not only because it outlined, with an exceptional majority on such issues, the large consensus existing among the international community to recall the pertinence of the very founding principles enshrined in the Charter at a moment when Europe was faced with a dangerous and blatant violation. Not only because it showed that most of the members of our Organization didn’t want the United Nations to remain silent on this issue, regardless of the obstruction put by Russia in the Security Council. But also, and before all, because it made clear and unequivocal that the unilateral annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea by Russia was illegal and had to be condemned as such by the international community.
So yes, this vote was critically important. And it remains as such today. The resolution of the General Assembly sets the official position of the international community on this matter. From a legal point of view, it commits the United Nations, as well as its Member States. From a political point a view, it provides us with a guideline to advance towards the resolution of this crisis, on the basis of clear parameters benefiting from the broad support of the international community.
France remains deeply concerned by the situation in Crimea today to say the least, and in particular by the reports of regular human rights violations, notably directed towards the Tatar minority and the pro-Ukraine militants. Your intervention, Monsieur le Député, was quite eloquent to this extent. We support the work undertaken by the United Nations in Crimea, in particular that of the OHCHR, and call on the de-facto authorities and on the Russian Federation to allow for its unrestricted continuation. In general terms, be sure that we will continue to monitor very closely this situation. We welcome to this extent the holding of an Arria-formula meeting of the Council tomorrow on this issue. We will not forget about Crimea.
The second point I would like to touch upon is to recall where we stand now in our efforts to foster a way out of this conflict.
As you all now, further developments intervened in Donbass after the Russian annexation of Crimea. The settlement of the crisis in Ukraine remains for France a priority and we are determined to continue our efforts in that sense, in the framework of the Normandy format, alongside with our German friends. We believe that the Minsk agreements are the only viable terms of reference for a peaceful and lasting solution.
This is why we are highly preoccupied by the continuous violations of the cease-fire happening on the ground on a daily basis, and by the increasing trend observed in this respect in the recent weeks. We regret the partial implementation of the provisions of the Minsk agreement, although they constitute an international commitment which has to be implemented by all sides.
During the last ministerial meeting of the Normandy format held in Paris a few days ago, we deliberately chose to change the method, by concentrating our efforts on trying to agree on concrete deliverables pre-identified by the OSCE on three primary sets of issues : consolidating an actual cease-fire ; defining practicalities of local elections on Donbass ; and making those elections safe. On all those issues, some progress was achieved ; let me say just a few words about them :
On the consolidation of the cease fire, ministers called for the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) to be able to identify those responsible for breaching the ceasefire and make sure that the necessary steps are taken to prevent them from doing so again. Ministers also decided to establish a mechanism to prevent and resolve incidents, by April 30th. We believe that this new mechanism, which will operate under the coordination of the SMM, will provide all actors with a valuable and additional instrument to reduce the number of ceasefire violations and achieve progress towards long term stabilization of the security situation ;
On local elections in Donbass, ministers agreed for the need to hold them before the end of the first half of 2016, in compliance with Ukrainian electoral law and OSCE standards. This shows our common determination to move forward and set concrete deadlines towards the restoration of a political horizon in Donbass ;
On the security of elections now, ministers agreed to call on the OSCE to provide us with concrete and practical options by March 31st. It is indeed essential that security is provided in order to allow for the holding of elections and their observation by an OSCE-ODHIR mission as agreed in Minsk.
A few other issues were also touched upon, but I don’t want to be too long today. Among them, ministers called, once again, for unimpeded access of international humanitarian aid to the civil population as well as for the swift liberation of all prisoners and all illegally detained people, by April 30th. On this specific issue, let me take this opportunity to mention that, without prejudice to the situation of other detainees, France is concerned by the health status of Nadia Savchenko and calls on Russia to refrain from holding persons who have been wrongfully detained on its territory.
Five months after the Normandy summit held in Paris, this new ministerial meeting gave us the opportunity to define a clear and updated roadmap, with specific and timely deadlines. This is not enough, and we would clearly have preferred to have more being achieved by now. But we stay committed and we believe that the coming weeks will be absolutely crucial in this respect to determine the real nature of the commitment of all parties in the implementation of the Minsk process. We expect them to take their responsibilities in this sense. There is an urgent need to move forward.
To conclude, let me assure you all that France will make no concessions regarding what remains our first and foremost objective on this issue, that is to say the restauration of the sovereignty of Ukraine on its internationally recognized borders. Our position on this is directly inspired by the international law and by the resolution of the General Assembly that we are discussing today. We must and will not give up.