Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Vienna, Austria.
Thursday 20 March, 2014
I fully support the statement made on behalf of the European Union but would like to add the following remarks in my national capacity.
On Saturday Russia was isolated in vetoing a UN Security Council resolution condemning the Crimean ‘referendum as “unconstitutional” and “illegitimate”, which was co-sponsored by 42 nations. The subsequent steps taken by President Putin on 18 March to attempt to annex Crimea to Russia are in flagrant breach of international law and send a chilling message across Europe.
Russia’s justifications for its actions do not stand up to scrutiny. There is no evidence of Russians being under threat anywhere in Ukraine, as Russia has alleged. If there were legitimate concerns to raise, Russia had countless opportunities to pursue them through the OSCE and other international organizations. It made no effort to do so.
The Russian Ambassador referred to Kosovo, arguing that the people of Crimea have a right to self-determination, and citing Kosovo as an alleged precedent. But there is no equivalence whatsoever between Crimea and Kosovo. NATO intervention in Kosovo followed ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity on a large scale. An International Contact Group, including Russia, was brought together to discuss the future of Kosovo after the conflict. The independence of Kosovo followed nine years of work by the Kosovan authorities to satisfy the conditions of independent statehood, and mediation by a UN Special Envoy. None of these circumstances apply to Crimea.
And none of Russia’s attempts to muddy the waters with dubious legal argument can disguise the fact that we are witnessing the annexation of part of the sovereign territory of an independent European state through military force.
We strongly regret Russia’s continued obstruction of the deployment of an OSCE Monitoring Mission to Ukraine. Such a mission, putting independent observers on the ground, should be in all our interests. Russia’s reluctance to see that happen throws further into doubt the credibility of its claimed concerns.
The Acting Minister knows as well as any of us the range of tools and options the OSCE has to offer. I’m encouraged to hear that the National Dialogue project is now deploying to Ukraine. There is a wide range of ways we can work through the OSCE and its institutions. I would encourage the Ukrainian authorities to ensure that we take full and timely advantage of all the opportunities at our disposal.
We all depend on a rules-based international system where nations uphold bilateral and global agreements in a whole variety of areas from trade to security. The credibility of the international system rests on there being costs attached to breaking binding commitments and refusing to address disputes through peaceful diplomacy.
Every diplomatic channel remains open to Russia, and we continue to call on them to engage in a diplomatic framework with the legitimate Ukrainian government to de-escalate this crisis. The choice remains for Russia to take the path of de-escalation or face increasing isolation and tighter sanctions.
If Russia continues its current course and its evident determination to ignore the international community and international law, it will be necessary to strengthen our response. As my Foreign Secretary told our House of Commons on Tuesday:
There is no doubt that, if there is no progress on Ukraine, relations between Russia and many nations in the world, including ours, will be permanently affected. Russia should be clear about the long term consequences and in the United Kingdom we will not shy away from those consequences….We will be clear about our own national interest, which is in Ukraine being able to make its own decisions and in the upholding of international law and the UN charter, and the prevention of future violations of independent European states.
In closing, I wish the Acting Minister and the people of Ukraine every success as they address the difficult tasks ahead of them.
Thank you, Mr Chairman.