What's In Blue

Posted Thu 11 Mar 2021

Crimea: High-level Arria-formula Meeting

Tomorrow (12 March), there will be a high-level videoconference (VTC) Arria-formula meeting on Crimea from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm (EST). The meeting—which will be live-streamed via YouTube, Facebook and the homepage of the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Permanent Mission of Estonia to the UN—has been co-organised by Council members Estonia, France, Ireland, Norway, the UK, and the US. It is also co-sponsored by Australia, Belgium, Canada, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Honduras, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Turkey, and Ukraine. Estonia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Eva-Maria Liimets, will chair the meeting. Ilze Brands Kehris, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights and Head of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in New York, will deliver the keynote speech. Briefings are expected from Phillip Karber, President of the Potomac Foundation, and Maria Tomak, Coordinator of the Media Initiative for Human Rights. Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, is expected to participate in the meeting. Several Council members are expected to participate at ministerial level, making this the first high-level Arria-formula meeting on Crimea.

The practise of holding an Arria-formula meeting on the situation in Crimea started in March 2014, at the outset of the crisis in eastern Ukraine. Since then, a meeting has been held each year in March on the anniversary of the annexation of Crimea by Russia. Most Council members have been generally supportive of holding these meetings.

In May 2020, Russia organised an Arria-formula meeting in connection with the situation in Crimea as a follow up to the Arria-formula meeting held earlier in the year that had been organised by Belgium, Estonia, France, Germany, the UK, and the US in partnership with Ukraine. Russia maintained that its meeting provided an opportunity to hear directly from the current residents and representatives of different national groups living in Crimea. The briefers gave an overall positive view of Russia’s role in Crimea.

According to the concept note, tomorrow’s meeting will mark the seventh anniversary of the annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol by Russia. The note states that “the meeting provides an opportunity to hear direct accounts of the worsening situation on the Crimean Peninsula”, including human rights abuses, militarisation, and economic and environmental challenges. The organisers of the meeting have emphasised “the need to increase the Council’s and international community’s attention to Russia’s…violations of international law” and discuss the ways to bolster international response in this context. The note encourages participants to focus on the following issues: the human rights situation; demographic and economic challenges; the militarisation of the peninsula, and security challenges in the wider Black Sea region.

Besides updating members on the situation, Kuleba might provide more details on the Crimea Platform, Ukraine’s strategy to focus international attention on the occupation of Crimea. The initiative aims to broaden the international response to the occupation and provide a strategic vision to the process of liberating Crimea. Ukraine is planning an inaugural summit later this year in Kyiv to launch the Crimea Platform.

Ukraine remains a contentious issue in the Council. Among permanent members, the P3 (France, the UK and the US) have condemned the Russian annexation of Crimea and consider it a violation of international law. The EU members of the Council share this view. Russia has defended the legality of the 2014 referendum on Crimean independence and its subsequent accession to the Russian Federation. During formal Council meetings on the situation in Ukraine, Russia has generally objected to any Council discussions specifically on the situation in Crimea, which it now considers part of its territory. Russia has also opposed any Council outcome that would question the current status of Crimea.

While there have not been any specific Council outcomes on Crimea, the General Assembly has adopted several resolutions urging Russia, as the occupying power, to withdraw its forces from Crimea and end the occupation of this territory. At the outset of the crisis in Ukraine in March 2014, the General Assembly adopted resolution A/RES/68/262, which affirmed the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders.

The last formal meeting on the situation in Ukraine in the Security Council was held on 11 February. During the meeting, several members raised the issue of the occupation of Crimea by Russia. On 23 February, the General Assembly held its annual debate on the agenda item “The situation in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine”, during which the majority of member states expressed their support for the territorial integrity of Ukraine.