Taking the podium of the United Nations General Assembly on the third day of its annual high-level Debate today, European leaders called for an end to the crisis within their own continent, with Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitÿ decrying Russia’s violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty.
“It is our duty to support peace, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. The threat arising to Ukraine must be urgently tackled,” she told leaders from the world body’s 193 members, noting that 100 States supported Ukraine in the General Assembly and condemned Russia’s occupation of Crimea, a vote that shows “we are still protecting the core values.”
She called on the UN together with North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the European Union, other regional organisations and their member states to “fulfil their duty” and do everything possible to stop armed conflicts, redrawing the borders of sovereign states and creating one frozen conflict after another.
Ms. Grybauskaitÿ called on Member States to adhere to core UN values, whether in dealing with Ukraine or terrorism in the Middle East. “Our common task as a group of nations is to maintain undivided security - we have to put all our efforts to stop ISIS (The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) and al-Qaeda, to keep peace and security in Middle East, but the same efforts should be directed to manage the geopolitical challenges in Eastern Europe,” she said.
“In avoidance of an even grimmer future, I invite you to stop deception, lies, manipulation and ignorance from entering our territories and violating our values. We have to go back to the core principle of the United Nations of keeping peace throughout the world.”
Prime Minister Xavier Bettel of Luxembourg noted that the crisis in Ukraine has turned step by step into a conflict. “This conflict unfortunately shows that the times when we thought peace on the European continent had become self-evident are over,” he said. “This conflict has already cost the lives of more than 3,000 people. It must end and it must end now. Dialogue and diplomacy are of the essence.”
Xavier Bettel, Prime Minister of Luxembourg, addresses the General Assembly. UN Photo/Amanda Voisard
He also called for a “bold and ambitious” global agenda for sustainable development after 2015, binding commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to address climate change, an end to the Syrian civil war with its toll of some 200,000 dead and indiscriminate attacks against civilian populations, schools and hospitals, and firm action against war crimes and crimes against humanity by terrorist groups, first among them the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat also called for UN action to end the “ghastly war” in Syria. “I call on the Security Council to assume its responsibilities under the Charter and to act urgently and decisively to bring an end to the bloodshed,” he declared.
He likewise called for “meaningful negotiations” to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “Too many innocent civilians have died; too many children have been buried,” he noted. “We need statesmanship from the politicians on both sides.”
At the same time he demanded that more attention be paid to the plight of illegal immigrants in the Mediterranean. “Again I call on the international community to help us stop the great human tragedies that come with risky crossings,” he said, noting that desperate men, women and children are risking their lives crossing conflict ridden zones and hostile deserts and taking to the seas without realizing the dangers awaiting them.
Slovenian President Borut Pahor warned that if the UN does not reform the Security Council and its other bodies, it risks being side-lined. “It is our historical duty to modernize the United Nations,” he said.
Borut Pahor, President of the Republic of Slovenia, addresses the general debate of the sixty-ninth session of the General Assembly. UN Photo/Amanda Voisard
He noted that the existing architecture of the Organization, and above all the Security Council, is “failing it its fundamental role.” The deadlock in the Security Council is used as an excuse to resolve conflicts through force and without a UN mandate.
“If this trend continues, it may lead to the breakdown of the contemporary political and security architecture,” Mr. Pahor declared, noting that given the upcoming 70th anniversary of the UN, and the global terrorist threat emerging in the broader Middle East and North Africa, such reform is urgently needed now.
President Gjorge Ivanov of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) said the biggest casualties of the Ukraine crisis are the innocent citizens and the material losses. “The Republic of Macedonia supports all the efforts aimed at restoring peace and stability in this country,” he said. “I am convinced that through dialogue, with political and diplomatic means, Ukraine will be able to deal with the challenges.”
President Gjorge Ivanov of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia addresses the General Assembly. UN Photo/Kim Haughton
Touching on terrorism, religious extremism and other global problems, he said the world order is in latent crisis. “The processes of global interdependence and sub-national fragmentation transform all our previous perceptions of the world,” he declared.
“As we speak, millions of faithful believers around the world feel the pain caused by the narrow-minded individuals and groups, imbued with religious fundamentalism. As we speak, a systematic destruction of individuals and communities is happening. As we speak, hundreds of thousands are persecuted. Their homes have been devastated, their temples destroyed, their past is erased and their future is in question.”
Drawing a link between the situation in Ukraine and the situation of Kosovo and Metohija, the Serbian President today reiterated his country’s solidarity with “our Slav brothers” to help find a peaceful solution to the crisis.
Tomislav Nikolic, President of the Republic of Serbia, addresses the General Assembly. UN Photo/Kim Haughton
Addressing the General Assembly, Tomislav Nikolic, said Serbia was “deeply shattered and worried” over the events in Ukraine which preclude residents there from living in peace and tranquility.
Mr. Nikolic underscored that Serbia respects the territorial integrity of Ukraine, unlike some Member States that “denied this right to Serbia by recognizing and promoting the independence of a part of the territory of Serbia – Kosovo and Metohija.”
Achieving a sustainable political solution for the question of Kosovo and Metohija is Serbia’s top national priority, the President said.
“For Serbia, the only acceptable, fair and just solution is to reject secessionism and preserve the territorial integrity of all countries,” he stressed, adding that he supports a political solution that includes the interests of the Serbians, Albanians and other populations.
Among other topics raised in his address, Mr. Nikolic signaled out climate change, questions of global security and deadly infectious diseases as the three most pressing global challenges before the UN Assembly.
Georgian Prime Minister Iraldi Gafibashvili pledged to do “everything we can to help our friends in Ukraine” by providing humanitarian aid, political support and technical help such as sending doctors and medicine.
“The ongoing developments in Ukraine tear at our hearts. We strongly support Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty,” he said. “We hope that the recent peace treaties will put an end to the military operations once and for all, and mark the beginning of an irreversible peace-making process.”
He called on Russia to fulfil its obligations under the 2008 international ceasefire that ended a conflict in Georgia and join in the search for peace, prosperity, and reconciliation.
Fighting broke out in August 2008 between Georgian forces and South Ossetian and Abkhaz separatists and their Russian allies. South Ossetia and Abkhazia each subsequently declared their independence from Georgia, and those declarations have been recognized by Russia and several other countries.
“Let me be clear, Georgia will never sacrifice its territorial integrity and sovereignty,” Mr. Gafibashvili declared. “However, we will continue to look for pathways to reconciliation with our brothers and sisters in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. We Georgians want a good relationship with Russia, but not at the expense of our sovereignty and independence, which we fought so hard to achieve.”
Also addressing the Assembly, Elio Di Rupo, Prime Minister of Belgium began his statement reading the names of four people who had been savagely killed “only because they were visiting a Jewish museum of Brussels.” He was not forgetting the other people that had been killed by such violence and had read out those names only to spotlight the terrible impact of such horrific acts that are occurring in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere. Those and others that had been killed in similar ways had been victims of “criminals of terror.”
Such acts should “speak to each and every one of us”, he said, underscoring that the recent resolution adopted by the Security Council on foreign fighters had been a very important step in rallying coordinated action to turn back terrorist organizations. Belgium, he continued, would like to step up efforts to share information that would disrupt the recruitment and training of jihadists that wanted to move between countries and sow terror. The fight against terrorism was a war between those who valued life and those who did not; those who respected rights and freedoms and those who did not.
"Yet, I cannot help but think that the human catastrophes we are witnessing are a result of human failure,” he said, recalling the folly of so called “preventive wars”, which Belgium had not joined or supported. But as things stood today, turning back the current tide of terrorism would require force. But, the Prime Minister said, it would also require dialogue, education and a closer examination of the impact and residual effects of such actions.