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Remarks by H.E. Mr Sven Jürgenson, Permanent Representative of Estonia to the UN, at UN Security Council open debate, 21 February 2017


Mr. President,

First, let me extend my deepest condolences to the delegation of the Russian federation on the passing of Ambassador Vitali Churkin.

Mr. President,

I would like to start by thanking Ukraine for organizing this timely discussion today on a very important topic. It is a harsh reality that in too many parts of the world we find conflicts either emerging, raging or frozen.

We also have to face this reality in Europe. Ongoing and protracted conflicts in Europe pose a risk to stability and security in the region and also globally. They obstruct socio-economic development of the countries and regions, deny full enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Sometimes these conflicts are referred to as “frozen” which is clearly a misnomer. As we have unfortunately seen time and again, they can easily flare up. It is not the conflicts but the conflict settlement processes that tend to be frozen.

We all know that the prohibition on the use of force and the respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of Member States lies at the heart of the United Nations Charter and these principles have our firmest support. Other regional organizations, the OSCE in particular, have also a crucial role to play in supporting this rule-based international order in Europe. The security order in Europe has been dented but not dismantled. The existing system works, provided that all participating states adhere to the principles and commitments that it rests on and provided that all states do so not only in principle but also in reality.  

We need to find a solution to the conflict in Ukraine. It is quite clear what needs to be done. The Minsk agreements must be fulfilled and sustainable settlement must be found in the existing negotiation formats. For the first time since the Second World War borders in Europe have been changed through the use of force. Russia must withdraw its forces from Ukraine, allow Ukraine to restore control over its border and territory and end the illegal annexation of Crimea.

We also remain concerned about the de facto annexation of Georgia’s Tskhinvali and Abkhazia regions. Alien forces should be withdrawn from these regions. Russia should abide by its commitments under international law and August 12, 2008 ceasefire agreement and engage constructively in Geneva International Discussions.

Mr. President,

We support the efforts of the ongoing conflict resolution processes: the Minsk Group to find peace to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict, the 5+2 talks in the Transniestrian settlement process. Sometimes lack of progress in those formats has been frustrating. This is why genuine political will and good faith is needed from all sides.

Not all of Europe’s conflicts could have been prevented. Yet the effect of many could have been mitigated had we acted sooner.

We all know that the Security Council has as its primary responsibility, under the United Nations Charter, the maintenance of international peace and security. So the Council bears an important responsibility for preventing conflicts or having the capacity and readiness to adequately respond to them. Unfortunately, we have had to witness, on numerous occasions, how some members of the Council have used or threatened to use the veto, and by doing so, have left the Council paralyzed and unable to act in situations where action is needed the most. That has caused loss of lives and displaced millions of people, led to unprecedented human suffering.

In 2005, the member states of the United Nations committed to the principle of Responsibility to Protect (R2P). When a government fails to live up to its commitments, when it violates the fundamental norms of international law, the international community must act, the Security Council must act. That is why Estonia has expressed before and continues to highlight its position, that permanent members of the Security Council should voluntarily and collectively commit themselves to not using their veto to block Council action aimed at preventing or ending situations involving mass atrocity crimes.  

Mr. President,

In conclusion, I would like to highlight that the “grey zones” in Europe hinder the realization of foreign policy and economic development goals for the countries affected. They divert attention and resources away from much-needed reforms. They represent a constant security risk and leverage to be used for actors with malign intentions. There should be no “grey zones” where development is frozen, rule of law weak and militarization heavy on Europe’s map. International security and human rights monitoring mechanisms as well as humanitarian organizations should have full and unhindered access to these conflict areas to enhance security, prevent escalation and ensure protection of human rights of the people living in these areas. This can be achieved when all states adhere to the principles of international law and rule-based international order not only in words but also in deeds.

Thank you. 


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