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15 March 2014 - Ukraine - Remarks to the press by Mr. Gérard Araud, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations

(in French and in English)

Bonjour,

Nous ne sommes pas surpris, nous savions que la Russie allait opposer son véto à la résolution qui a été présentée. Nous savions également que la Russie serait totalement isolée. C’était simple, le texte de la résolution que nous avons présentée était un texte qui se contentait de réaffirmer les principes de base des Nations unies. Comme je l’ai dit, la Russie a opposé son véto à la Charte des Nations unies. C’est clair, le véto russe aujourd’hui signifie que la force prime le droit. Je crois qu’il était nécessaire pour l’avenir des Nations unies de montrer que la Russie est seule.

***


We knew when we tabled this resolution that Russia would oppose its veto, we knew that Russia would be isolated. It was a very simple text. The text was reaffirming the principles pf the UN Charter. As I said in my speech, Russia vetoed the UN Charter. It was important for the future to show that Russia is isolated; it was important to show that no other country is supporting the Russian position, that all the international community considers that the annexation of Crimea, which is ongoing, is totally unacceptable.

***


Q: Are you going to surrender your diplomatic efforts at the UN because of this Russian veto or are you going to go to the General Assembly, or other organs at the UN?

You cannot imagine how many discussions, how many conversations have been conducted on the phone between Heads of State and Governments with Mr. Putin and Mr. Lavrov. As you have seen, Mr. Kerry met several hours with Mr Lavrov. We have tabled a lot of proposals to answer to what the Russians were saying, where they had concerns. But simply there was nothing to negotiate because Russia has decided to annex Crimea and was moving into this direction in a very deliberate way. So we are repeating that we want to negotiate, we want to find a peaceful settlement. But the problem is that it takes two to tango, and so far Russia has refused to negotiate about the future of Crimea. But it is very clear there will not be any settlement that could be based on the infringement of the territorial integrity or sovereignty of Ukraine. Crimea is Ukrainian, and we won’t accept “le fait accompli”.

Q: we know the next steps that are going to take place: that referendum, then Brussels and Washington sanctions, are you worried about how the Russian will respond to that? Could there be further escalation?

You should ask the question to the Russians. We tried to de-escalate the crisis since the beginning. Nobody can say that we did not, the French, and all the international community, try to reach an agreement.

Now we are forced to react and, you are right, we will go to Brussels and I think we will take sanctions. Frankly we go down this road against our will; we are forced by the Russians behavior. Russia violated international law, Russia refused to discuss with us. So we have no choice but to go this way and we have no choice because it is gross violation of international law. I hope Russia will understand it has to stop.

Q : Vous avez voulu montrer l’isolement de la Russe. Vous l’avez obtenu. Est-ce tout ce que la diplomatie a à offrir sur l’Ukraine aujourd’hui ? Pensez-vous que cela a du poids sur le Kremlin et sur M. Poutine ?

Nous ne sommes venus au Conseil de sécurité qu’en désespoir de cause. Vous ne pouvez pas imaginer le nombre d’appels téléphoniques, la longueur des appels téléphoniques de tous les chefs d’Etat et de gouvernement avec le Président Poutine et le ministre Lavrov. Vous avez vu que M. Kerry a passé plusieurs heures à Londres à essayer d’ouvrir une négociation avec la partie russe. Mais la partie russe a été très claire, il y a une chose dont on ne discute pas, c’est la Crimée. Donc nous allons vers l’annexion de la Crimée, ce qui est une violation grave du droit international. Il était donc nécessaire que nous marquions le coup.

Mais de nouveau il ne faut pas perdre espoir et nous l’avons répété dans nos discours ; nous espérons que la Russie ne cédera pas aux sirènes du nationalisme et qu’elle comprendra que cette violation du droit, ce reniement de ses propres principes est un désastre pour l’avenir de la communauté internationale. Nous le répétons, nous sommes toujours prêts à négocier avec la Russie, mais évidemment sur la base des principes de la Charte des Nations unies, c’est-à-dire l’intégrité territoriale de l’Ukraine. Nous n’accepterons jamais l’annexion de la Crimée par la Russie.

Q: I want to follow up on a question on the next step, specifically whether there is any consideration about going to the General Assembly. Also, I believe it is under article 27 of the UN Charter, it says that for something invoked under chapter VI a party to a dispute is supposed to abstain, so there is a question, legally speaking, whether this veto has really legal status if that provision is involved. Can you comment?

For the moment we haven’t taken a decision whether there will be a next step at the UN. We are in the middle of the crisis. We will have to consult our partners to see whether there will be a follow up at the UN on this crisis. But for the moment things are moving back to the capitals and to Brussels where the members of the EU are going to decide sanctions.

Q: You are talking about sanctions, but what are the biggest consequences you think that, after this call saying you have isolated Russia, we do not want the referendum, are going to happen in the international community related to Russia? And with the people of Crimea, the Parliament of Crimea, did you talk with them, or is it only interacting with the government of Ukraine and Russia?

Today it was about principles. It is extremely dangerous if we accept that a country simply takes over a territory by force. We are going back to 1914, and we are in 2014. It is the message we were trying to send to the Russians. You cannot simply use force to solve your problems.

There is also the problem of minorities. There are minorities everywhere in the world. Try to imagine what the countries in the world will think if we accept that somebody would try to say “I protect that minority, I intervene into your domestic affairs”. The decision taken by Russia could destabilize all the international relations. The question of principles which was set in the resolution which was drafted by the United States was a necessary message saying “you cannot do that, please go back to the normal way of handling the international relations”.

It is a sad day because we have the impression we are going 30 or 40 years back.


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