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Key week for Ireland's term on UN Security Council during Ukraine-dominated General Assembly

Taoiseach Micheál Martin will also arrive in New York later today.

Coveney at the United Nations Security Council earlier this year.
Coveney at the United Nations Security Council earlier this year.
Image: Alamy Stock Photo

Updated Sep 21st 2022, 2:19 PM

Christina Finn reports from New York: 

‘THE WORLD IS a dangerous place and unfortunately, it’s becoming more dangerous in many regions,” Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said today at an UN event on peacekeeping. 

World leaders are gathered in New York for the 77th UN General Assembly, with President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy and US President Joe Biden due to address the the Assembly today. 

Just as leaders gathered in New York for UN week, with a key focus being the Ukraine crisis, Russian-backed forces announced they were going ahead with referendums on annexation by Moscow.

President Vladimir Putin used a national address to threaten that he would use nuclear weapons to defend the integrity of Russia.

A UN Security Council meeting will take place tomorrow focusing on Ukraine and it is being considered as the most high-profile Security Council meeting of Ireland’s two-year term on the body.

All five permanent members of the Council will be in attendance – which is the first time since the outbreak of war between Russia and Ukraine. Coveney will be representing Ireland, with Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov also around the table. 

According to US think tank the Council on Foreign Relations, calls for keeping sanctions against Russia are expected. The Security Council might also seek a negotiated end to the war, while legal accountability of Russian political and military leaders will also be sought.

A number of developing nations have resisted calls to punish Russia and have voiced unease about the billions of dollars being spent on weapons for Ukraine.

“Africa has suffered enough from the burden of history,” said Senegalese President Macky Sall, the current chair of the African Union.

He pleaded for a “negotiated solution” in Ukraine and warned against a “new cold war.”

national-flags-including-ireland-at-the-united-nations-building-new-york-city-usa Ireland's flag at the UN. Source: Alamy Stock Photo

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has fashioned himself as a mediator, called for an end to the war that recognises Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

“Together, we need to find a reasonably practical diplomatic solution that will give both sides a dignified way out of the crisis,” Erdogan told the General Assembly.

Biden also plans to urge reform of the UN Security Council , with US officials frustrated by Moscow’s veto of Security Council measures.

“I expect that the president will speak substantively to the question of UN Security Council reform while he is in New York,” White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said.

Ireland’s former Ambassador to the UN Geraldine Byrne Nason, who is now Irish Ambassador to the US, previously spoke to The Journal about similar frustrations. 

She said the vetos held by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council are “anachronistic”. They represent a “historically unjust” system that “shouldn’t exist”, she said. 

Russia is one of the five permanent members of the Council, meaning that – like France, the United States, Britain and China – it has a veto on substantive resolutions made by the group. It has repeatedly wielded that veto to block resolutions on the Ukraine conflict. 

That power also means it cannot be expelled from the body, as it would simply veto any vote or recommendation by the Security Council to do so.

However, the way in which Moscow has used its veto power since the Ukraine invasion has prompted Washington to revive the issue and push for enlarging the Security Council.

“I think this will be on the agenda and you may very well see him make a public statement” with specific actions, Sullivan said ahead of Biden’s speech. 

The world can see that when a permanent member acts in this way it strikes at the heart of the UN Security Council, and so that should lead everyone collectively to put pressure on Moscow to change course.

Byrne Nason said Ireland has been working for the last three years with another group of countries, led by Liechtenstein, on an initiative that sets out that if a veto is used in the Security Council, the country that uses it will be obliged to come to the General Assembly “to explain itself”.

“It’s a holding to account of the use of that veto,” she explained. 

Interestingly, the Americans – who have used the veto in the past – have signed on as a sponsor of the veto initiative, said Byrne Nason. 

So they will join countries like Ireland, because to be honest, I think people are now seeing just how lacking in credibility it is for an aggressor to block a discussion.

Peacekeeping

While the main focus of the UN General Assembly is Ukraine this year, there are a number of other issues on the agenda.

In terms of Ireland’s interests, Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney has a packed schedule today, first hosting an event at the Irish Mission to the UN on peacekeeping and peace building.

Ireland holds the longest unbroken record of peacekeeping across the UN and is one of the largest per capita contributors to peacekeeping around the globe.

At present more than 500 Defence Force personal and gardaí are on peacekeeping duties with the largest deployment to Lebanon (UNIFIL) – 300 – and the Golan Heights (UNDOF) – 100. 

Speaking today, at the Permanent Mission of Ireland to the UN building in New York, where the Coveney said through Ireland’s Security Council term, Ireland has sought to prioritise the link between peacekeeping and peacebuilding.

“Peace is not simply a moment in time. It’s not a signature of a piece of a specific deal. The conduct of an election, or the official departure of a UN peacekeeping mission it needs to be a process. It needs to be a commitment over time. And it takes time planning, resources, and hope,” he said to the event’s attendees, which included the UN Under Secretary General for Peacekeeping, Jean Pierre Lacroix.

His comments come as the US president is expected in his speech to urge his allies at the UN to arm Ukrainian forces, while a US delegation is set to meet with a Ukrainian delegation on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly today.

The UN summit was somewhat disrupted by the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, with Biden’s arrival yesterday evening causing traffic problems in the city. The US leader had to delay his usual opening day speech until today. 

Taoiseach Micheál Martin is due to arrive today, amid some speculation a possible meeting with the US president could happen on the fringes of the UN meetings. 

Biden is due to meet with UK Prime Minister Liz Truss this afternoon.

Coveney will later attend a lunch hosted by the Irish consulate in New York and attended by key members of the Irish Community including figures from the media, legal, business and finance sectors.

He will then attend an event hosted by John Kerry – the US Special Envoy for Climate. The Island Network meeting was formed in 2019 and is made up of Island states, states with islands, non sovereign islands and overseas territories.

The US is a member with the majority of members from the Pacific and Caribbean. It is focused heavily on climate issues.

A high-level pledging Global Fund event hosted by US President Joe Biden aims to raise money for AIDS, TB and Malaria. 

Coveney will be announcing a significant pledge as part of the project, it is understood.

Later in the afternoon, Coveney will also attend a USAID/UNICEF pledging event on nutrition, which is being hosted by Ambassador Samantha Power, administrator of USAID

UNICEF is the UN agency for the well-being of children. Since 2017 Ireland has donated €120 million to UNICEF projects and work.

Ireland has also pledged €800 million between 2022-2026 for global nutrition.

national-day-of-commemoration-ceremony Source: PA

Coveney will use this event to announce a significant new donation from Ireland following months of discussion with Power and USAID.

Later this evening, Coveney will accompany the Taoiseach to the Host Country Reception with the leaders of the world and senior delegation members.

Coveney will also hold bilateral meetings with Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Somalia, Algeria, UAE, Egypt, Morocco, Sierra Leone and Pakistan today.

The Taoiseach is also due to visit the National Ploughing Championships in Co Laois today before flying out to New York.

Christina will be reporting from the UN throughout the week. You can follow her updates on Twitter @christinafinn8

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