posted on Mon 10 Mar 2014 2:35 PM
Meeting on Ukraine with Briefing by Head of Political Affairs

A private meeting of the Security Council on Ukraine will be held at 3 pm today following a request from Ukraine. Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman will brief the Council. The Permanent Representative of Ukraine, Ambassador Yuriy Sergeyev, is expected to make a statement.

One of the most pressing issues for some Council members will be the planned referendum on the status of Crimea. On 6 March, the parliament of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea voted overwhelmingly in favour of becoming “a part of the RussianFederation as its constituent territory” and asked Russia to launch a procedure for Crimea becoming a part of Russia. It also scheduled the referendum for 16 March. It seems the referendum will ask two questions: “Do you support reuniting Crimea with Russia as a subject of the Russian Federation? “and “ Do you support restoring the Crimean Republic’s 1992 Constitution and status within Ukraine?” Soon after the vote in the Crimean parliament, both Houses of the Russia parliament pledged to vote into law the result of the 16 March referendum. Ukraine as well as western countries led by the EU and the US have declared the referendum to be illegal and that its results would not be internationally recognised. The Council could also be interested in hearing more about the situation in Eastern and Southern parts of Ukraine, and what sort of reactions there might be in these areas if the results of the referendum call for Crimea to be part of Russia.

Diplomatic efforts have continued over the past week, with both German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the UK Prime Minister David Cameron speaking with Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday. The talks did not produce any concrete results, with all sides reiterating their well known positions on the situation in Ukraine. According to media reports, Putin seemed to be open to the idea of a contact group which could open up the possibility of direct negotiations between Russian and Ukraine. Council members might be interested in discussing what role the Council might play in facilitating the process as well as exploring additional mediation efforts.

Taking into account the incident last week involving Robert Serry, a senior UN envoy, who had to leave Crimea following threats by armed men, the Council will be interested in more information on the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) observer mission which yesterday was denied entry to Crimea for the third time. On 8 March the observer mission was turned back while warning shots were fired by the armed men controlling the border crossing into Crimea. The same day in Vienna, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatović, condemned the continuous closure of television channels and attacks on journalists in Crimea. Some Council members may raise the issue of press freedom and protection of journalists during the meeting.

Amid high tensions in Crimea the security situation remained relatively stable. However, yesterday (9 March) there were a number of incidents during rallies which were held across Ukraine. In Sevastopol, pro-Ukrainian protesters demanding withdrawal of Russian troops were allegedly attacked by the pro-Russian protesters. Similar demonstrations were held in other parts of the Ukraine. In Donetsk pro-Russian protesters held rallies demanding greater autonomy and secession from Ukraine.

Today will be the fifth time the Council has met on Ukraine since 28 February. However, there appears to be little movement towards a Council decision on the situation. Ukraine appears to be increasingly frustrated with the lack of action. Ambassador Sergeyev said in a press interview on Friday (7 March) that Ukraine’s government is waiting to see how the Security Council performs “in the next few days” and noted that the General Assembly could use “Uniting for Peace” if the Council is deadlocked. Uniting for Peace has been implemented 11 or 12 times (depending on how the first case of Korea in 1951 is characterised) since the adoption of General Assembly resolution 377 (V) on 3 November 1950. This resolution stated that if the Council, because of the “lack of unanimity of the permanent members, fails to exercise its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security” where there is a threat to the peace, breach of the peace or act of aggression, the General Assembly can consider the matter. While the Security Council referred seven of the Uniting for Peace cases, the General Assembly itself invoked the resolution in the four most recent cases following a deadlock in the Council.

While the possibility of some sort of Council pronouncement exists, in general Council members appear content to receive regular briefings and to wait for any outcome of the diplomatic efforts undertaken by the Secretary-General, the EU and the OSCE. However, as has been the case in the past, it is possible the Council might be called upon to step in once parties reach an agreement. For example, the 5 May 1999 agreement between the governments of Indonesia and Portugal which called for a referendum to determine the status of East Timor, requested the Secretary-General “to establish, immediately after the signing of this Agreement, an appropriate mission to enable him to effectively carry out the popular consultation”. The Council met two days later and adopted resolution 1236 welcoming the agreement and through resolution 1246 of 11 June 1999 established a mission that would conduct the referendum.

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