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Ireland 'deeply frustrated' at Security Council’s failure to act on Russia, Palestine and climate change

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney addressed the UN Security Council in New York earlier today.

Updated Sep 23rd 2022, 7:00 AM

Christina Finn reports from New York: 

TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN has used Ireland’s statement to the UN General Assembly to voice his deep frustration in the UN Security Council’s “failure to act” on a number of issues, such as climate change and Palestine.

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

With three and a half months to go, Martin told the Assembly yesterday evening that the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory is untenable.

“Each month, the Council meets to discuss the situation in Palestine. Each month, Ireland, along with many of our fellow members of the Council, has reiterated our firm commitment to a two-State solution, with a viable Palestinian state based on 1967 borders, living in peace and security alongside the State of Israel, with Jerusalem as the capital of both states.

“But we are no nearer today to that aim than we were when we joined the Council 18 months ago; and, truth be told, long before that.

“Israeli settlement building continues to undermine – it would seem knowingly and deliberately – the viability and territorial contiguity of a future Palestinian State, and to jeopardise the two-State solution. Settlements are a clear violation of international law and today stand in the way of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.

Let us be clear. The situation in the occupied Palestinian territory is untenable. We cannot – and must not – become inured to it.

A situation cannot be tolerated where young Palestinian people have no confidence in political progress and no hope for the future, he said. 

“The international community must renew its efforts. Progress will not be possible without addressing the root causes of the conflict. The Security Council must fulfil its responsibilities. Crucially, it must work for compliance with its own resolutions,” he added. 

Climate 

The Taoiseach said it was Ireland’s ambition when it joined the Security Council to adopt a resolution on climate and security.

Three countries, including the two of the UN Security Council’s permanent members Russia and China – who have a veto on decisions – expressed strong opposition to the proposal at the time.

“We challenged the Council to take on its responsibilities to address the impact of climate change on international peace and security. One hundred and thirteen countries – one hundred and thirteen of the Members of this Assembly – supported us in our efforts. One country – Russia – vetoed these efforts,” said the Taoiseach.

He said it “frankly beggars belief that, in 2022, the UN body charged with the maintenance of peace and security, has still not taken on its responsibilities in this area”.

“It is a singular failure of political will and political responsibility,” he said.

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Girls in Afghanistan

Speaking about another issue that Ireland has raised concerns about, the Taoiseach said Ireland has resolutely defended the human rights of the Afghan people, particularly women and girls.

“But we continue to witness the ongoing erosion of the rights of Afghan citizens, particularly women and girls, but also those of ethnic and religious minorities and the LGBTQI+ community,” he said.

Girls in Afghanistan have now been out of school for more than a year, he said. “This is a clear violation of their fundamental rights and freedoms. Their potential will not be fulfilled and that of Afghanistan weakened if this situation continues to prevail,” he said.

Raising another example of inaction, Martin said Ireland also raised concerns about the looming humanitarian catastrophe in Tigray in northern Ethiopia, calling or the vital need for a negotiated ceasefire, unfettered humanitarian access and the restoration of basic services, as well as a political solution to the crisis.

“Yet, a year later, we continue to raise the alarm. We continue to urge the Council to act decisively. We continue with our determination to support a political solution and seek accountability for gross human rights abuses,” he said.

Speaking about the threat of nuclear weapons, the Taoiseach said it was deeply regrettable Russia had prevented agreement at the Tenth Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty last month.

“The heightened nuclear risks arising from Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, and the threats to nuclear safety and security resulting from military activity in and near civilian nuclear facilities in Ukraine, are unprecedented.

“The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty must remain an essential element of international peace and security. The urgency of its full implementation cannot be overstated,” he said.

‘Russia behaving as a rogue State’

Speaking about the conflict in Ukraine, he said:

All States, and particularly small countries such as my own, should fear a world where might equals right, where the strong can bully the weak; where sovereignty and territorial integrity can be blatantly violated; and where the UN Charter – the Charter that all of us in this Assembly have faithfully put our trust in – can be flouted with impunity.

“We have seen the targeting of nuclear facilities and of civilian infrastructure. And now we see President Putin plan sham referenda in eastern Ukraine, aimed at forcibly changing Ukraine’s borders, in clear violation of the UN Charter. We have to name what we are seeing. These actions, taken collectively, show Russia behaving as a rogue state,” said Martin.

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When asked about the Council’s ineffectiveness, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said the Security Council “isn’t the perfect solver of problems”.

“We have been deeply frustrated, as other countries have, that the Security Council hasn’t been able to make more substantive interventions to bring the madness of war in Ukraine to an end and Russian aggression to an end. And of course, we’re getting frustrated on more than one occasion, by the use of the veto,” he said, citing the example of the resolution on climate and security.

“The use of the veto is something that needs to change as part of reform of the Security Council… it is simply not acceptable, that a powerful country can veto the application of international law in their own interests. And that’s what Russia continues to do in the context of of their war in Ukraine. So I think I was blunt about that.

“Having having said that, are we better having the Security Council than not having it? We certainly are. And the kind of debate we had today, which isolated Russia, in terms of their disinformation and their own justification for this aggression in Ukraine, I think was pretty clear today.

Calls for peace and dialogue

“Every other speaker was effectively saying [at the UN today], it’s time to end this war, it’s time for peace, it’s time for dialogue. And it’s time for accountability,” said Coveney.

Earlier, in his speech at the UN Security Council, Coveney said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is an “attempt to change internationally-recognised borders” and no “sham referendum can change that basic fact”.

Addressing the United Nations Security Council in New York earlier, Coveney said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “is a grave violation of international law”.

“It is an attempt to change internationally-recognised borders by the use of force. No sham referendum can change that basic fact. It cannot be allowed to stand,” he said. 

Coveney told the Council that “if we fail to hold Russia accountable, we send a signal to large, powerful countries that they can prey on their neighbours with impunity”. 

“This is why Ireland, yesterday, filed a declaration of intervention at the International Court of Justice, in Ukraine’s case against Russia,” he said. 

He later went on to say that “without accountability, there is no hope of a sustainable peace; not in Ukraine, not anywhere. I repeat that today”. 

Coveney’s speech comes after Moscow this week announced referendums on annexation in Russia-held parts of Ukraine. 

Separatist authorities in the eastern Donetsk and Lugansk regions, as well as in the southern Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, said they would hold the vote over five days beginning Friday this week.

The Foreign Affairs Minister also warned that “millions of civilians in Ukraine and beyond are being potentially put at risk by Russia’s occupation of Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant”. 

“I repeat the demand of last week’s IAEA board of governors: – Russia must immediately cease all actions against the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. Ukrainian authorities must regain full control,” Coveney said.

“And I reiterate Ireland’s full support for the efforts of the International Atomic Energy Agency to address these nuclear safety and security risks,” he said. 

Nuclear weapons

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. 

Finishing up his speech at the Security Councily, Coveney said that “the path to peace is clear”. 

“The country that made a deliberate decision to start this conflict must now make the decision to end it,” he said. 

“It must withdraw its forces from the sovereign territory of a fellow UN Member State.
It must be held accountable for its actions, through the international bodies and structures we have together created for this purpose,” Coveney added. 

“This is not just about Ukraine. This is about the entirety of the UN membership. If we do not reject Russia’s actions in the clearest and most stark terms, we allow the world to be governed by force, and not through dialogue.”

Blinken vs Lavrov

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken demanded Putin be held to account as he faced Russia in the Security Council session in which the UN catalogued abuses in Ukraine.

“The very international order we’ve gathered here to uphold is being shredded before our eyes,” the top US diplomat said.

“We cannot – we will not – let President Putin get away with it,” he said.

Blinken accused Putin of adding “fuel to the fire” with recent steps including calling up reservists and planning referendums in Russian-held Ukrainian territory just as Kyiv made strong gains on the ground.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov – whom Blinken has refused to meet individually since the February invasion – lashed out at Western accusations.

“There’s an attempt today to impose on us a completely different narrative about Russian aggression as the origin of this tragedy,” Lavrov told the Security Council.

russias-foreign-minister-sergei-lavrov-speaks-during-a-news-conference-following-talks-with-the-united-arab-emirates-foreign-minister-sheikh-abdullah-bin-zayed-al-nahyan-in-moscow-russia-march-17 Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke at the UN Security Council meeting. Source: Alamy Stock Photo

He accused Ukraine of “Russophobia,” including through its imposition of Ukrainian language rules.

“The United States and their allies with the connivance of international human rights organisations have been covering the crimes of the Kyiv regime,” Lavrov said.

Speaking after the meeting to Irish reporters, Coveney utterly rejected Lavrov’s comments.

“What we heard today was more Russian disinformation. When I visited Kyiv and Bucha, what I saw certainly wasn’t a fabrication,” he said.

“In time we will see the international criminal court making clear determinations. My comments were about holding Russia to account and was about setting the standard that Russia should be held in terms of the international charter which has been breached on multiple levels,” he said.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that the UN rights body has seen “a catalog of cruelty – summary executions, sexual violence, torture and other inhumane and degrading treatment against civilians and prisoners of war.

“All these allegations must be thoroughly investigated, to ensure accountability,” he said, without directly pointing the finger at Russia.

“Perpetrators must be held to account in fair and independent judicial proceedings. Victims and their families have a right to justice, remedy and reparation,” Guterres said.

With reporting by Céimin Burke and Hayley Halpin

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

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