Vote on a Draft Resolution on Ukraine
The Draft Resolution
Tomorrow morning (Saturday, 15 March), the Security Council is scheduled to vote on a draft resolution on the situation in Ukraine. The US circulated a draft text to Council members yesterday morning (13 March) and US Ambassador Samantha Power introduced the text under “Any Other Business” following consultations on Syria . After a meeting on the draft text at deputy permanent representative level yesterday afternoon, the draft resolution was put in blue today.
The draft resolution, while reaffirming the Council’s commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine, notes that Ukraine has not authorised the referendum on the status of Crimea and declares that such a referendum can have no validity. It also calls on all relevant bodies to not recognise any alteration to the status of Crimea as a result of this referendum. Other elements include urging all parties to pursue a peaceful resolution of the dispute through political dialogue and to engage with international mediation efforts. It also calls on Ukraine to respect and uphold obligations under international law and protect the rights of minorities and welcomes the commitment of the interim government of Ukraine to uphold the rights of all persons in Ukraine, including those belonging to minorities.
During the brief negotiations yesterday on the draft text, it seems that proposals came from Lithuania, Luxembourg and Rwanda to include language on the efforts of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe and other organisations to de-escalate the crisis, the need for all parties to engage fully with international mediation efforts and calling for inclusive political dialogue. This is very much in line with the public statements of a number of Council members.
As of now, it seems that the resolution has the support of 13 members of the Council. It looks like Russia is likely to use its veto, while China’s position is unclear, with some members hoping that its statements so far indicate that it will not veto. A Russian veto will mean that the resolution will not be adopted. Given this scenario, the Council still has a number of options.
As the draft resolution appears to be under Chapter VI, Article 27(3) of the UN Charter could be used. (This article states that on decisions under Chapter VI, and under paragraph 3 of Article 52, “a party to the dispute shall abstain from voting”.) Over the years there have been at least 10 cases of “voluntary abstention” where a country has either chosen to abstain or not to participate in the vote. The last such case was in 1960, although since then there have been several cases where the use of Article 27 (3) was discussed. With regard to tomorrow’s vote, there doesn’t appear to have been any discussion of having Russia recuse itself from the vote.
If there is a veto, an option would be a referral by the Council of the situation to the General Assembly under Uniting for Peace (General Assembly resolution 377 (V) of 3 November 1950). There are seven instances when following a veto, the Council then adopted a resolution referring the situation to the General Assembly. The period of time for the Council to vote on such a resolution in these seven cases, which cover the period from 1956 to 1982, ranged from adoption on the same day as the vetoed resolution, to two weeks later (a Council resolution referring the issue to the General Assembly is considered procedural and as such not subject to a veto).
Yesterday’s Meeting on Ukraine
Yesterday afternoon the Council held a public meeting on Ukraine chaired by Jean Asselborn, Minister for Foreign and European Affairs of Luxembourg. Jeffrey Feltman, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs briefed the Council after which the Prime Minister of Ukraine, Arseniy Yatsenyuk addressed the Council.
Feltman gave an update on the situation Ukraine noting that a comprehensive assessment was difficult as most international observers — including Ivan Šimonović, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights — had not be allowed to enter Crimea. Feltman stated that there is still a chance for a peaceful resolution of the conflict and called on Council members to seize this opportunity.
Yatsenyuk urged the Russian Federation to pull back its forces from the territory of Ukraine. He went on to say that Russia is in violation in a number of international treaties including the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, through which Ukraine gave up its nuclear arsenal in return for assurances of respect for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country. Yatsenyuk noted that the violation of the Budapest Memorandum could have negative consequences for the non-proliferation framework in general. He also emphasised Ukraine’s desire to resolve this crisis through dialogue and in a peaceful manner.
Asselborn, who had visited Kiev earlier in the week, shared his first-hand experience and assessment of the situation with the Council, stressing that the international community could not be indifferent to the ongoing crisis. In their statements, Council members generally reiterated their now well-established positions on respecting Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, while emphasising the need to de-escalate the situation through Russia’s pulling back its troops and agreeing to engage in dialogue. Russia maintained that it is not the reason for the crisis, that the Ukrainian government had been illegitimately overthrown and that the basis for further solution stands with the 21 February agreement.
Recent Developments in Ukraine
In light of the referendum scheduled for Sunday in Crimea, tensions remain high as reports emerged of the mobilisation of Russian forces on the eastern border of Ukraine. There was also an outbreak of violence in Donetsk (a city in eastern Ukraine) between pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian activists that left one person dead.
On 13 March, Ukraine sent a letter to the president of the Council from the Ukrainian parliament which stated that Ukraine, in accordance with its right to self-defense as enshrined in Article 51 of the UN Charter, reserved the right to request assistance in restoring its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Last minute diplomatic efforts continued earlier today with US Secretary of State John Kerry travelling to London to meet with Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov. The meeting between Kerry and Lavrov lasted for several hours but did not produce any concrete results. Addressing the media following the meeting Lavrov said that there was still no common vision between the US and Russia on Ukraine. He also said that the Crimean referendum is in line with international law and that Russia will respect the results of the referendum. Kerry reiterated the US position on the illegality of referendum in Crimea. He also stressed the US support for government in Kiev and for Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. According to both Kerry and Lavrov, it seems that diplomatic efforts will continue in the coming days, but that it now seems likely that the referendum will go ahead on Sunday. The US and Western powers have made it clear that they will not accept the legitimacy of the referendum, while Russia has stated that it will wait for the results before making any further decisions on Crimea. It is possible, depending on Russia’s actions next week, that the US and the EU may choose to impose sanctions on Russia.