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13 March 2014 - Security Council - Ukraine - Statement by Mr. Gérard Araud, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations

(UN translation)

I welcome the dignified statement we just heard from the Prime Minister of Ukraine.

If the current crisis were not so serious, we could wax ironic about the recent statements made by Russian diplomats to explain the apparent movement towards the annexation of Crimea. That irony is based on two facts. First, Russia constantly refers to the agreement of 21 February, negotiated by the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of Germany, Poland and France, which it refused to endorse when it was signed. It has become a very belated supporter of that agreement after Yanukovych’s shameful flight.

Secondly — and here the irony borders on the surreal — Russia refers to the opinion of the International Court of Justice, which ruled that the unilateral declaration of independence of Kosovo was not illegal. Russia never recognized that opinion and always disputed Kosovo’s independence. We therefore await with interest the logical conclusion of that unexpected conversion — Russia’s recognition of Kosovo.

It is interesting to note that, in its opinion, the International Court of Justice established two conditions. One was the contested character of the territory, which led to the existence of a unique legal order, resolution 1244 (1999), and the second was the non-use of force. Obviously, those conditions have not been met in Crimea, the status of which was in no way contested either by Moscow or the local assembly, and where the Russian occupation allows one faction, which received 4 per cent of the votes in the local elections, to organize a mock referendum in the shadow of Russian bayonets. As French Minister for Foreign Affairs Fabius said this morning, “in Crimea Sunday the choice will be between ‘yes’ and ‘yes’”.

But for Russia it is not a question of law, coherence or logic; it is a question of using anything and everything to justify the unjustifiable — the blatant and cynical violation of the Charter of the United Nations, whose foundation is respect for the territorial integrity and non-interference in the internal affairs of its Members.

Everything is therefore in place for the annexation of Crimea by Russia regardless of legal wrangling that will fool no one. The Western media sees in this matter the triumph of the Russian chess player who will have checkmated the international community. I play chess pretty badly, but I see here above all the immaturity of a player who cannot help but try to take the rook and ends up losing the game. Russia will gain Crimea and lose its credibility. What will happen to the credibility of Russian diplomacy when it tries to returns to its foundations — respect for the territorial integrity of States and non-interference in the internal affairs of States — a diplomacy that encouraged and recognized the secession in Georgia and annexed a region of Ukraine? It will be met with nothing but sarcasm and a shrug.

What will happen to the credibility of Russian diplomacy in the former Soviet space? Are we not aware that certain independent States had been conquered by the Russian Empire before Crimea? Are we not aware that there are Russian and Russian-speaking minorities everywhere across that space? All that Russia will find there is distrust and anxiety. What will happen to the credibility of Russia in Ukraine? How can we imagine a reconciliation between the spoiler and the dispossessed? How can we understand the creation of a new Alsace-Lorraine a century after 1914? No one is asking Ukraine to choose between East and West. Russia has succeeded in doing so by leaving Ukraine no choice in the matter.

Finally, what will become of the rapprochement between the European Union and Russia when Russia tramples upon the values that led to the creation of the European Union and the resolve to break the cycle of invasions, occupations and demands? The European Union can only see its error in believing that its interlocutor shared the same objective. Russia will lose the game, but no one will emerge unscathed, because naked force will have imposed its logic. The fragile fabric of international law — the only guarantee and only barrier that small States have against the return of war — will have been torn.

In this moment of confusion, it is right for the Security Council to reaffirm the principles upon which the United Nations is founded. France therefore supports the draft resolution presented by the United States of America and calls for its being put to a vote before the holding of the referendum.

It is not too late. Let all of us, members and non-members of the Security Council alike, launch a final appeal to Russia. We understand the passions and concerns. We want to respond to them, but through respect for law and the territorial integrity of Ukraine. That is the message that for a week now all our Heads of State and Government have been sending to the highest levels in Moscow.

Simple solutions are available; the principles are well known. I even cited them here a week ago: the return of the Russian forces to their barracks, the deployment of international observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to ensure the safety of the civilian population, the establishment of a Government of national unity in Kyiv, the swift holding of elections under international monitoring (see S/PV.7125). Let us negotiate the terms.

Time is running out. If the illegal referendum is held on Sunday, if Russia responds unfavourably, as it has announced it would, we will be forced to let Russia suffer all the political and economic consequences. I say “forced” because we do not want to follow a path leading backwards. I say “forced” because we will not have a choice in the face of such a major violation of international law on our continent.

Russia should resist the nationalist giddiness that has engulfed it and which is always ill advised. Russia should forget 1914 and understand that we are in 2014. It should return to the principles that it heralded for so long and that it tramples today. It should listen to what the entire international community is telling it. If it does, a solution is possible — a solution that respects the territorial integrity of Ukraine and its independence and ensures the rights of all communities of Ukraine. It should not lose the chess game for the sake of the limited and fleeting pleasure of taking a rook. That would not be a worthy display of the talent of Russian chess players, who are among the best in the world.


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Organisation des Nations Unies Présidence de la République France Diplomatie La France à l'Office des Nations Unies à Genève Union Européenne Première réunion de l'ONU