What's In Blue

Posted Thu 15 Mar 2018

Crimea: Arria-formula Meeting

This afternoon (15 March), Security Council members will convene for an Arria-formula meeting on the Crimea. The meeting is being organised by the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, the UK and the US in partnership with Ukraine, which served on the Council in 2016-2017. Briefings are anticipated by Olena Zerkal, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, and Ayla Bakkalli, a representative of the Crimean Tatars. In addition to the briefers and members of the Council, Germany and the EU will also deliver statements as parties with an interest in the issue. Ambassador Olof Skoog (Sweden) is expected to provide opening remarks, and Ambassador Joanna Wronecka (Poland) will offer closing remarks.

The meeting is entitled: “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.” The concept note invites the participants to address the following issues:

• the role of the Council in implementing relevant existing and future outcomes of UN bodies and international courts on the Russian annexation of Crimea;
• possible further measures by the Council, the Secretary-General and the UN in addressing the situation in the Crimea;
• the more effective use of international law in reaching settlements in asymmetric and hybrid wars; and
• the international community’s challenges in addressing comparable situations in a rules-based international order.

Regarding the briefings, Zerkal is likely to address some of the actions Ukraine has taken to address Russia’s annexation of Crimea, including the procedures initiated at the International Court of Justice, while Bakkalli might focus on the human rights violations committed in Crimea and in particular against the Crimean Tatar community there.

Over the years, the Council has become less active in attempting to address the situation in Crimea and eastern Ukraine. The Council held its last formal meeting on Ukraine in February 2017. However, Council members have continued to raise the issue during other Council sessions, such as the briefings by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and on cooperation between the EU and the UN.

Deep division among the permanent members, the P3 (France, the UK and the US) on one side and Russia on the other, have prevented the Council from taking concrete action on the issue. 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 declared a referendum planned for the following day invalid. The General Assembly has, however, 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 the Crimea. The P3 and the members of the Council that are members of the EU have been particularly critical of the Russian role in the conflict in Ukraine and continue to condemn Russian annexation of Crimea. Both the EU and the US still maintain sanctions on Russia over its occupation of Crimea and its support for rebels in Donbass. France and Germany, which are members along with Russia and Ukraine of the diplomatic initiative known as the Normandy format, might update the Council members on the latest political efforts to address the crisis in Ukraine. France and Germany played an instrumental role in negotiating the Minsk agreement in February 2015, which was endorsed by the Council’s resolution 2202.

In the past, Russia has generally objected to any discussions of the situation in Crimea, which it now considers part of its own territory. Although the majority of Council members have been highly critical of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Russia continues to defend the legality of a March 2014 referendum in Crimea and what it perceives as its subsequent accession to the Russian Federation.

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