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Ukraine conflict: Coveney expecting 'abrasive' exchanges at pivotal UN Security Council meeting

Minister Simon Coveney will be around the table with Russia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Russia's Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov will be in attendance at the UN Security Council meeting today.
Russia's Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov will be in attendance at the UN Security Council meeting today.
Image: Alamy Stock Photo

Updated Sep 22nd 2022, 6:58 AM

Christina Finn reports from New York: 

IRELAND WILL USE its position and speaking time on the UN Security Council today to speak truth to power, according to Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney. 

Today’s UN Security Council meeting is being considered as the most high-profile engagement of Ireland’s two-year term on the body.

All five permanent members of the Council will be in attendance for the first time since the war in Ukraine began.

Coveney will be representing Ireland, with Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov also around the table. The Ukrainian Foreign Minister will also be at the meeting.

The meeting comes after Moscow announced referendums on annexation in Russia-held parts of Ukraine. President Vladimir Putin yesterday used a national address to threaten that he would use nuclear weapons to defend the integrity of Russia. He also announced the call-up of military reserves, in what has been regarded as a significant escalation of the conflict. 

Ireland was elected to the Security Council for a two-year term starting in January 2021 and finishing in December this year. 

“I think it will be a very abrasive meeting,” Coveney told reporters in New York yesterday. 

“It will be a time for Ireland to speak the truth – which was our calling card, if you’d like, to be on the Security Council, that we would effectively speak bluntly – to power.

Before taking up the position Ireland set out a policy of relying on international law, “on UN resolutions, on the UN charter, to call out aggressors and countries that are violating those rules”.

“That’s effectively the approach we’ll take on Thursday.”

The minister said it is a privilege for Ireland to have a seat at the table, stating that the international community “needs to be focused on peace, on ending this madness,  aggression and conflict and death”.

He said Ireland wants to work with partners on the Security Council and outside it to “try and find a way of doing that”.

However, he said:

I think we’re likely to see escalation before where we’re likely to see any any progress towards towards peace.

Coveney said we would be guided by what Ukraine and its president wants, stating “it’s not for the international community to dictate terms to Ukraine. They are a country that has been invaded, and they are defending themselves”. 

‘Threat to world peace’

Reacting to Putin’s speech, he said it represents a very worrying escalation of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

It’s a signal that this is going to be a protracted conflict that is not anywhere near at an end. And it’s a signal that there’s going to be a lot more bloodshed, and a lot more lost lives in terms of Russian and Ukrainian. I think it was timed of course, for this week, when world leaders are meeting.

IMG_4444 Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney and Ireland Permanent Representative to the UN Fergal Mythen speaking to the media in New York today. Source: The Journal.ie

Coveney said Russia plans to move ahead with “sham referendums”.

“It’s effectively a referendum at gunpoint and Russia will get the results that it wants from those polls, and then presumably, will then link those referendums to Russia then justifying the defence of its own extended territories.

“This is aggressive stuff. It’s a threat to peace on the continent of Europe, it’s a threat to world peace,” said Coveney. 

Peace talks

When asked by the The Journal if the Security Council should attempt to push for peace talks, as has been indicated that some countries will do this week in New York, Coveney said realistically, the idea of a ceasefire and peace agreement “seems like quite a way off”.

“Instead, what we’re seeing is Ukrainian successes in recent weeks in terms of pushing Russian troops out of their territory, which I think is welcome.

“But we’re also seeing Russia now escalating their response announcing that they’re going to call an extra 300,000 soldiers up, and of course, the implicit threat of much more powerful weapons being used.

“We’ve heard those threats before, by the way, so we shouldn’t overreact. But it’s still a conflict that’s not moving in a good direction,” said the minister. 

Security specialist Tom Clonan writes in his column for The Journal that Putin’s remarks and threats have placed the risk of a nuclear exchange in Europe firmly on the table.

He writes that Putin’s brutal war has failed in all of its objectives.

“It has failed to decapitate Zelenskyy’s regime and install a puppet regime west of the Dnieper River. It has failed to consolidate its occupation of the Luhansk and Donetsk Oblasts. The Kremlin’s forces were routed from the Kharkiv Oblast in recent weeks – retreating in disarray towards the Russian border…

“Let’s be clear here. Even with an army of 300,000 troops – Putin will never be able to occupy or control a population of 40 million Ukrainians. The United States and her allies – along with NATO – recently learned that lesson after catastrophic campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, both with populations similar in number to that of Ukraine.

“Quite simply, Russia has run out of conventional military options in Ukraine,” writes Clonan.

Separately, on the issue of Ukraine calling for a special tribunal to prosecute war crimes, similar to the Nuremberg trials, Coveney said Ireland has supported those calls.

However, he told reporters that there is a need to find a way of doing it that is “legally sound”, which, he added “isn’t easy”. 

Following the UN Security Council meeting this morning, Coveney will attend a Group of Friends on Accountability panel discussion which will be hosted by barrister Amal Clooney.

The event – hosted by Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands on behalf of Ukraine – will seek to accelerate action for crimes committed in Ukraine.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba will address the meeting and Coveney will speak on behalf of Ireland.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin was due to arrive in New York last night, however, due to technical issues with his Aer Lingus flight, the plane was forced to return to Ireland.

As a result, the Taoiseach missed out on a reception for leaders hosted by US President Joe Biden at the American Natural History Museum.

Martin is understood to have spoken briefly to Biden while in London this week for Queen Elizabeth’s funeral, but there had been speculation of a more in-depth meeting between the pair while the two leaders are in New York.

Coveney is understood to have had a “warm and positive exchange” with Biden yesterday evening, where Biden expressed commitment to Ireland and to protecting the Good Friday Agreement.

At an extraordinary meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council, Coveney welcomed the EU’s condemnation of Russia’s escalation of its war in Ukraine.

There was agreement at the Council meeting that the EU needs to start active outreach in relation to referenda – which have been called in separatist areas in Ukraine – to avoid recognition of sham results.

Coveney also held a bilateral meeting with the Iranian Foreign Minister, where the main topic of discussion was the stalled Iranian Nuclear Deal (JCPOA) for which Ireland is coordinator at the UN Security Council.

The minister expressed the revulsion of the Irish people at the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, a woman who died in police custody in Iran, and called for a full investigation and justice in the case.

The Taoiseach will today deliver Ireland’s National Statement to the General Assembly, as Ireland enters its final months on the Security Council.

As well as addressing the conflict in Ukraine, he will use his speech to call on global institutions to remain effective in meeting challenges such as food security, human rights and nuclear security.

The Taoiseach will also attend an event hosted by Singapore today, which follows on from his recent official visit the country where he spoke on the decriminalisation of homosexuality.

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

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