posted on Thu 14 Mar 2019 4:41 PM
Arria-formula Meeting on Crimea

Tomorrow (15 March), an open Arria-formula meeting will be held in the ECOSOC chamber from 10 am to 1 pm on Crimea. The meeting has been organised by Council members Belgium, France, Germany, Poland, the UK, and the US, in partnership with Ukraine. According to a concept note prepared by the organisers, the meeting is entitled: “A symbolic date: Fifth anniversary of the beginning of Russia’s occupation of Crimea: A blatant violation of international law”. Panel presentations are anticipated from Sergei Kyslytsya, Deputy Foreign Minister of Ukraine; Alim Aliev, Program Director of Crimean House; Ayla Bakkali, executive member of the World Congress of Crimean Tatars; and Ahtem Chyihoz, Vice Chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar. Security Council members—and others by invitation—will have the opportunity to make statements. Panelists will be able to respond to questions posed by Council members and other speakers.

According to the concept note, the meeting will “provide an opportunity to hear first-hand accounts from civil society and experts on the latest developments” with regard to Crimea and represents “a call on the international Community [sic] to take a stand for a rules-based international order and condemn the illegal occupation of Crimea by Russia.”

The note encourages participants to address several questions. Among others, these include:

  • What steps can be pursued to facilitate an end to the Russian occupation of Crimea and return it to Ukraine?
  • What can be done to prevent at an early stage violations of international law with regard to Russia’s occupation of Crimea?
  • How can international law be promoted regarding the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov?

This will be the third Arria-formula meeting focused specifically on Crimea since Russia annexed the territory in March 2014. In this regard, Arria-formula meetings have been held on the following topics: “The Russian occupation of Crimea: the role and limits of the UN Security Council and good offices of the UN Secretary-General in addressing violations of the UN Charter and international law” (15 March 2018); “Impunity for Human Rights Violations in Crimea Must Stop” (18 March 2016); and on the human rights situation, media freedom and the situation of the national minorities in Crimea and in eastern Ukraine (19 March 2015). Furthermore, an Arria-formula meeting convened on 31 March 2017 by Ukraine, which served as a Council member in 2016-17, on “Hybrid wars as a threat to international peace and security” included a discussion of Russian tactics in its conflict with Ukraine.

Deep divisions among the permanent members, the P3 (France, the UK and the US) on one side, and Russia on the other, have made it difficult for the Council to make meaningful progress on Ukraine. On 15 March 2014, Russia vetoed the draft resolution proposed by the US that would have reaffirmed the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine and would also have declared invalid a referendum planned for the following day. The Council adopted a presidential statement in June 2018 (S/PRST/2018/12) that expressed concern over the worsening security situation in eastern Ukraine, condemned continuous violations of the ceasefire, and underlined the need for strict compliance with resolution 2202, which endorsed the Minsk agreements in February 2015. (Among other measures, the Minsk agreements called for a complete ceasefire and the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the demarcation line.) The June 2018 presidential statement is the Council’s most recent formal outcome on Ukraine, and the only one since the adoption of resolution 2202. The General Assembly, however, has managed to adopt several resolutions upholding the territorial integrity of Ukraine, including Crimea and Sevastopol.

At tomorrow’s meeting, Council members are likely to reiterate their well-known positions regarding Russia’s involvement in Crimea. The US and Council members in the EU are likely to strongly criticise the Russian role in the conflict in Ukraine and repeat their condemnation of Russia’s annexation of Crimea as a violation of international law. These members are further likely to express concern about discrimination against ethnic minorities in Crimea since the beginning of the Russian occupation of the territory in 2014. Some members may also criticise Russia for the November 2018 incident in the Kerch Strait (Sea of Azov), when it captured three Ukrainian vessels and their crews; in this regard, they may condemn Russia for escalating tensions, accuse it of violating international law, and call for the release of the captured Ukrainian boats and their personnel. For its part, Russia has asserted the legality of a March 2014 referendum in Crimea and what it perceives as its subsequent accession to the Russian Federation. It has accused Ukraine of violating the Minsk agreements and of provoking the November 2018 incident in the Kerch Strait for political reasons.