posted on Thu 6 Mar 2014 2:08 PM
Consultations on Ukraine with Deputy Secretary-General Eliasson Briefing from Kiev

This afternoon (6 March), the Security Council will hold consultations on the situation in Ukraine at the request of the UK. Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson will brief the Council from Kiev (via teleconference) on the most recent developments in Ukraine and the particularly tense situation in Crimea. Eliasson last briefed the Council on developments in Ukraine on 1 March. The following day he was sent by the Secretary-General to Ukraine in order to gather facts and assess the situation on the ground.

In Ukraine, Eliasson met with acting President Oleksandr Turchynov on 4 March and emphasised the need for a diplomatic solution to the current crisis in the country. He also commended the authorities’ measured response to unfolding events and took note of the high-level engagement of the international community to facilitate a peaceful and political solution to the crisis. Eliasson also met with interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and Foreign Minister Andrii Deshchytsia. Council members will be looking for more details on these meetings as well as any options that may have been discussed for a peaceful settlement.

Council members may also be looking for more information on the incident that took place yesterday in Crimea in which Senior Advisor Robert Serry was physically threatened. During a press conference following the incident, Eliasson confirmed the reports that Serry was threatened by unidentified men who told him he should leave Crimea but that Serry was not kidnapped as first reported by some media.

Council members will be keen to get a better understanding of the situation on the ground in Crimea and the safety risks for any international monitors that may be going in. The spokesperson for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) today confirmed that 40 OSCE military observers were prevented from entering Crimea by armed groups controlling the entry points to the Crimean peninsula. The military observer mission was meant to be in Ukraine from 5-12 March in order to assess the situation on the ground and visit military installations including that of the Ukrainian Armed Forces and Russian Black Sea Fleet, which is headquartered in Sevastopol. The team of the OSCE observers is composed of observers from 21 member states of the organisation’s 57 members. (A full-fledged OSCE Mission in Ukraine would require consensus of all members of the organisation including Russia as one of its members.) The issue of OSCE monitors was raised during the Council meeting on 3 March when Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant (UK) directly asked Ambassador Vitaly Churkin (Russia) if Russia would accept a full-fledged OSCE Mission. Churkin responded that such an OSCE mission needed to be discussed further.

While Council members have been following the developments in Crimea closely, it is likely that they will be looking for clarifications on some recent developments such as the vote today in the parliament of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea in favour of the region seceding from Ukraine and becoming part of Russia. The parliament also scheduled a referendum on the status of Crimea for 16 March. According to media reports, the parliament has also asked Russia to initiate a procedure to integrate Crimea into the Russian Federation. At press time there was no response from Russia regarding this proposal. At the same time, acting President Turchynov said that Crimea is an integral part of Ukraine and that there are no legal grounds to justify for the actions of the parliament in Crimea.

Over the last few days much of the activity on this situation has moved to Europe. On 5 March, the Foreign Ministers of the UK and Ukraine and the US Secretary of State met in Paris to discuss the 5 December 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances. The joint statement issued after the meeting reminded that the signatories of the Memorandum committed themselves to “refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine”. Further, the statement expressed regret that Russia did not participate in the meeting as one of the signatories, and calls for Russia to engage Ukraine in a discussion about their commitments in regards to the Memorandum. US attempts to bring Russia and Ukraine together for discussions failed in Paris later on the same day. However, Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met and discussed the situation in Ukraine briefly but without significant outcomes.

Since last Friday the Security Council has held three meetings on Ukraine, with the most recent held on 3 March. During the open meeting on 3 March, the European members of the Council (France, Lithuania, Luxembourg and the UK) as well as Australia and the US spoke out strongly for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. China also maintained its position on the principles of non-interference in the internal affairs of a country and respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine as did a number of elected members. However, in spite of what appears to be a vocal majority of Council members in agreement on the importance of respecting international law and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, to date there has been no attempt to take any concrete action.

It is clear that given Russia’s contrary views on the situation a presidential or press statement, which require consensus, will not be possible. However, there is a desire to show that the Council is deeply concerned about the situation and either a draft resolution under Chapter VI or Chapter VII could be explored.

If the option of a Chapter VI draft resolution gains traction, Article 27 (3) of the UN Charter could be used. This article states that decisions under Chapter VI, and under paragraph 3 of Article 52, (which is on the development of pacific settlement of local disputes through regional arrangements) “a party to the dispute shall abstain from voting”.

This could eventually allow for a draft resolution on the pacific settlement of the situation in the Ukraine with Russia recusing itself from the vote. However, this is an unlikely scenario because there are many past and recent examples of Council members being party to a dispute and not recusing themselves. Moreover, Russia could potentially dispute whether it is actually a party to the situation in Ukraine.

Another option for action would be to submit a draft resolution under Article 40 which falls under Chapter VII of the UN Charter as was done by the UK on 1 April 1982 in relation to the situation in the Falklands (Islas Malvinas) (S/14947.Rev.1). Article 40 allows for the Council to “call upon the parties concerned to comply with provisional measures as it deems necessary or desirable” before making recommendations or taking measures related to a threat to peace. Such action is unlikely, however, at it would require the Council making an Article 39 determination that , the situation in Ukraine, or Crimea, constitutes a threat to international peace and security. As a permanent member, Russia could veto any such draft resolution.

In light of the veto, the referral of the situation to the General Assembly under Uniting for Peace (General Assembly resolution 377 (V) of 3 November 1950) could constitute an option as has been done seven times in the past when the Council was deadlocked. On 4 November 1956 a draft resolution was tabled after Soviet military forces went into Hungary (S/3730/Rev.1). When Russia vetoed the draft, the Council adopted resolution 120 on 4 November 1956 calling for an emergency special session of the General Assembly. While Russia voted against this resolution, because of the procedural nature of the question, the resolution passed as it obtained more than the required majority. The Second Emergency Special Session on “The Situation in Hungary” went on to adopt five resolutions, including Resolution 1004 (ES-II) mandating a commission of inquiry into foreign intervention in Hungary.

Similarly in 1980, after the Soviet Union vetoed a draft resolution (S/13729) deploring its 27 December 1979 invasion of Afghanistan, the Council went on to adopt resolution 462 on 9 January 1980 calling for an emergency session of the General Assembly. At that session the General Assembly adopted resolution ES-6/2 of 14 January 1980, which strongly deplored the armed intervention and called for the immediate, unconditional and total withdrawal of the foreign troops from Afghanistan.

Considering that today’s meeting format will be consultations without the participation of Ukraine, there are indications that in upcoming days an open meeting of the Council could be convened to allow for the participation of Ukraine.

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