What You Need To Know:
✅ Ukraine has been elected to represent Eastern Europe as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for the years 2016 and 2017. This February, it held the Presidency;
✅ The Ukrainian team has a very strong backing from the UK and other countries in the Security Council;
✅ “The fact that Russia is prepared to defend its positions through its role in the Security Council is very troubling. It is a threat not just to your country, but to the whole of the international order.”
✅ “Russia must respect all of its obligations, Russia must get out of eastern Ukraine” — UK ambassador to UN.
Ukraine has been elected to represent Eastern Europe as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for the years 2016-2017. This February, Ukraine held the Presidency during which it initiated two important debates on infrastructure facilities protection and war conflicts in Eastern Europe — shining a spotlight on the suffering endured in Eastern Ukraine. "I think that your country should be very proud of the team here in New York," says Matthew Rycroft, UK Permanent Representative to the UN, adding that the Ukrainian team has a very strong backing from the UK and other countries in the Security Council.
Raycroft, who says the “UK stands shoulder to shoulder with Ukraine,” is firm that the United Nations has a role to play tackling the Ukraine crisis, and acknowledges the obstacle of the Russian veto power: “The fact that Russia is prepared to defend its positions through its role in the Security Council is very troubling. It is a threat not just to your country, but to the whole of the international order.” He points out that a multilateral system requires cooperation from all members, and that Russia is in breach of most agreements and commitments.
And while Russia may be good at distracting and creating diversions, Raycroft says the UN’s role is to stand firm on its principles: “We need to respond to that, we need to respond clearly and calmly and focus not on the individual person making the argument, but on the underlying message and on the underlying principles.”
Hromadske spoke to Matthew Raycroft, UK Permanent Representative to the UN in February 2017.
I would like to start with the recent debates at the UN Security Council, and about the conflicts in Europe. We have heard from multiple statements that the role of the UN as an organization and the Security Council as well, could be enhanced in the framework of regulating and resolving the conflicts in Europe. Do you think that this is possible, and how?
First of all I would like to make tribute to the Presidency, for the month of February that Ukraine has run. I think that your country should be very proud of the team here. The fact that the Foreign minister came here, and shared with the Security Council himself has put Ukraine in a very strong position in the United Nations. Ukraine has a very strong backing not just not just from the United Kingdom but from many other countries on the Security Council as well.
And the fact that there has been such a focus on conflicts in Europe has been very helpful for the course for Ukraine to shine a spotlight on the terrible suffering that people in the east of your country are undergoing.
The fact that Russia has a veto and the fact that Russia is prepared to defend its positions through its role in the Security Council is very troubling, it is a threat not just to your country, but to the whole of the international order. The multilateral system depends on countries upholding the UN charter, the Helsinki final act, bi-lateral agreements and Russia is in breach of all of those things. So we need to stand firm, we need to be clear about the principles and we need to increase the price that Russia has to pay for its violations of that International order.
But how do you think it could have been done? We have heard from Minister Klimkin [Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs] that there is an option potentially to open up for example, a UN office in Donbas. Do you think it is possible?
Yes this has been talked about a lot in the past. Yes it is possible, absolutely, it is best to do this in discussion with the United Nations and I am sure that he [Klimkin] is in contact with the UN secretary general and others about that, and I think that the UN has a role to play in tackling all these crisis, alongside other organization like the OSCE, the European Union, NATO, and others.
I would like to ask about Crimea's annexation. We have heard from the UK and from you as well, that Russia should give back Crimea. And in return we have heard some weird statements about the ‘Falklands’ and ‘Gibraltar.’ How do you deal with that? Do you think that Russia is living in some different world? With a different agenda? How do you deal with a partner or a member of the Security Council who is living [if you agree] in a different world and on a different agenda?
Well the United Kingdom stands shoulder to shoulder with Ukraine. And literally we sit side by side at the Security Council, as we are in alphabetical order, so we sit next to Ukraine. So we sit and stand shoulder to shoulder, and that will continue all the way through that your time on the Security Council. And part of that commitment is to stand by the territorial integrity and the sovereignty of Ukraine. And Russia's annexation of Crimea is illegal. Russia's occupation of east Ukraine is illegal, And sanctions will remain on Russia until Russia is out of eastern Ukraine. And Russia is out of Crimea.
Russia is very good at defending its position, and normally, the thing that they do, is to invent some false parallel or create some false facts, they are very good at that, its what they do best. We need to respond to that, we need to respond clearly and calmly and focus not on the individual person making the argument, but on the underlying message and on the underlying principles. This is a legal question, this is a moral question, and we should stand firm on those principles. And that is exactly what we do at the UN.
Why do you think that for some reason Crimea is always off the table at any negotiations, I mean Minsk is not about Crimea. Is there any platform in the world were this question could be negotiated, where Ukraine could stand along with its allies under the Budapest Memorandum, which UK is part of as well?
The UK is proud to be part of that, and we will keep in close touch with our Ukrainian colleagues about that question. But the answer to that question should come from them, not from us. We will be very much on their side in answering that question. But we do not have our own particular route which we recommend they take.
For now we recommend sticking with the Minsk agreements, implementing those. We support France and Germany and their crucial diplomacy in that regard, and we call on all the parties to implement the Minsk agreements. Including most obviously Russia, given the violations, but also the Ukrainian government needs to do its part and we support them doing that.
That's a very interesting question. I would like to hear your ideas whether Ukraine is pro-active enough on raising that question of Crimea. Do you believe Ukraine is doing all it can to put that question back on the agenda?
I think that Ukraine is doing a good job here in New York on that question; I think that Crimea comes up very regularly. I am not the only person that calls for the return of Crimea to its rightful place in Ukraine--others do that as well. So I feel as though here in New York, I feel that there is a strong body of opinion on Ukraine's side of this argument. It was striking before I arrived here; there was a very healthy majority in the General Assembly of over a hundred countries plus who were on Ukraine's side of the argument on Crimea. And I don't know whether that is true in other places around the world. And I agree with you that there isn't any actual negotiation going on at the moment between the parties about the return of Crimea to Ukraine, but that will need to come.
About the Minsk agreement. How would you comment on Russia's recent decision to acknowledge passports of the 'self proclaimed republics' 'LNR' 'DNR.' How does it play in the framework of this whole peace process, however effective it is?
We regret that decision, we condemn that decision, it is yet another violation of Russia's commitments. It is not up to Russia to decide which documents can be used. This is a Ukrainian sovereign issue, and it's up to the authorities of Ukraine to make those decisions.
Do you have any ideas why it has happened, or any idea of their motivation, I know it's not up to you, it's up to Russia, and the question should be addressed to Russia in the first place but, in the framework of everything that is happening here in the United States as well, with the new Trump administration, why?
Our analysis is that Russia is seeking to create diversions away, from what they and the Russian backed separatists are doing in eastern Ukraine, this is a good example of that. They clearly must be under some pressure knowing that, what they hoped would be a new US administration supporting them; it's very similar to the UK position. Russia must respect all of its obligations, Russia must get out of eastern Ukraine, Russia must abide by the Minsk agreement, the Russian backed separatists must withdraw. The ceasefire must be implemented in full. The heavy weaponry must be withdrawn, and sanctions must remain. Those are all the positions of the new US administration and Russia must be very disappointed with that.
Seeing how ineffective the Minsk agreement has been for the past two years, do you think there might be or could be an alternative to that agreement, and if so what alternative could there be?
It's not my place to make that sort of judgment. I think that the parties should get on and implement the Minsk Agreements, and as I said we support France and Germany in their diplomacy that led to that. It's very intense work that they did with our support, and the support of many others in the international community. So I encourage everyone to stick with that agreement. Of course everyone will think that there is some better agreement available. But I think that given that agreement, let's focus on implementing that and by abiding by all those commitments, and insisting that every other party does the same.