Never Take Peace in Europe for Granted, Say Speakers as Security Council Holds Open Debate on Region’s Protracted Conflicts

SC/12724
21 February 2017
7886th Meeting (AM)

Never Take Peace in Europe for Granted, Say Speakers as Security Council Holds Open Debate on Region’s Protracted Conflicts

Focus on Ukraine, Cyprus, as Spotlight Also Falls on Disputed Territories

Peace must never be taken for granted in Europe, where simmering conflicts could potentially impact security on a global scale, speakers in the Security Council said today, during an open debate that cast a particular spotlight on the situation in Ukraine.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said the Council was seized of many conflict situations in Europe, noting that the Organization was working with such regional mechanisms as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the European Union in tackling them.  Emphasizing the misleading nature of the term “frozen conflict”, often used to describe conflicts in Europe, he underlined that the risk of renewed violence remained until peace agreements were signed and implemented.

No single factor could be blamed for conflicts in Europe, he continued, pointing out that in many cases, peace agreements were simply not being implemented.  In other cases, democratic governance and the rule of law were challenged, and all the while, ethnic, economic, religious and communal tensions were manipulated for personal or political gain, fuelled in part by geopolitical rivalries.  “Whatever the causes may be, the inability of regional and international institutions — including our own — to prevent and resolve conflicts is seriously undermining their creditability and making it more difficult for them to succeed in the future,” he said, calling for honest reflection on that vicious cycle.

With Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin presiding, the meeting sought to assess existing threats to regional and international peace and security caused by conflicts in Europe.  It was also intended to review responses to ongoing instability and to dangerous developments within European countries in post-conflict or protracted conflict situations.

OSCE Secretary-General Lamberto Zannier said the crisis in and around Ukraine characterized a return of geopolitics to the organization’s agenda.  He cited the OSCE’s swift and flexible response to the unfolding Ukraine crisis as the most visible example of its ability to address a crisis both at the political level and on the ground.

Underscoring the OSCE’s role in addressing other protracted conflicts in Europe, he said the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh had seen a worrying turn for the worse, while the Transnistria settlement process required a fresh determination to move forward.  He emphasized the value of building strong coalitions among international organizations, civil society and the private sector, and also underlined the importance of involving women in conflict resolution.

Helga Schmid, Secretary-General of the European Union’s European External Action Service, said increasingly complex conflicts must be addressed through local, regional and international efforts.  The Secretary-General’s focus on conflict prevention and mediation went hand in hand with the European Union’s own global strategy aimed at addressing conflicts early, she said, adding that promoting stability in countries close to the bloc was a natural strategic priority.  Through its European Neighbourhood Policy, the European Union offered cooperation in such areas as security-sector reform, terrorism, extremism and organized crime, and strengthening cybersecurity.

Council President Klimkin, speaking in his national capacity, said conflicts in Europe had not received the attention they deserved.  “We need to put security in Europe back into the focus of the Security Council.”  All of Europe’s remaining conflicts had in common the active involvement of the Russian Federation, a permanent Council member, he noted, emphasizing that Moscow had employed a strategy intended to “instigate, participate, support and then derail” in its efforts to create a number of hotspots across Europe.  If such aggression went unchecked, every protracted conflict would turn “hot”, he warned, while underlining that the United Nations was only as strong as its Member States wanted it to be.

The Russian Federation’s representative said it was critical to ensure that the security of one State did not undermine that of others.  Reckless security policies had been the root cause of many conflicts, most of which could have been avoided, including the one in Ukraine.  On many occasions, the Security Council had invited both sides to halt clashes and implement the Minsk agreements, he recalled, pointing out, however, that although there was no alternative to that accord, the statement by Ukraine’s representative had made no mention of it.

The representative of the United States said it was sometimes tempting to take Europe’s peace and security for granted.  She reaffirmed her country’s support for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), its strong bonds with the OSCE and its enduring partnership with the European Union.  Emphasizing that the United States stood with the people of Ukraine, she urged the Russian Federation to implement the Minsk agreements in full, while emphasizing that although greater cooperation between Washington and Moscow was desirable, it would not occur at the expense of European friends and allies.

Many other speakers called for full implementation of the Minsk agreements, while drawing attention to other European conflicts, from Cyprus through the disputed territories of Nagorno-Karabakh and Transnistria to those in Georgia.  They strongly emphasized the importance of the United Nations working with regional organizations, and the need for greater conflict-prevention efforts.

At the meeting’s outset, participating foreign ministers, senior officials and other representatives of Member States paid tribute to Vitaly Churkin, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation, who died on 20 February, and expressed their condolences to his family and Government.

Also speaking today were foreign ministers, senior officials and representatives of Sweden, Kazakhstan, France, Uruguay, Senegal, Bolivia, China, Ethiopia, Italy, Egypt, United Kingdom, Japan, Hungary, Lithuania, Georgia, Croatia, Republic of Moldova, Latvia, Germany, Switzerland, Brazil, Belarus, Estonia, Poland, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Norway, Liechtenstein, Venezuela, Armenia, Romania, Slovenia, Australia, Canada, Cyprus, New Zealand, Belgium, Malaysia, Serbia, Montenegro, Netherlands, Albania, Uzbekistan and Bulgaria, as well as the Observer for the Holy See, and a representative of the GUAM Organization for Democracy and Economic Development.

Taking the floor a second time were representatives of the Russian Federation, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Ukraine.

The meeting began at 10:11 a.m. and ended at 4:44 p.m.

Tributes

PAVLO KLIMKIN, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine and Council President for February, proposed a moment of silence in memory of Vitaly Churkin, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation, who died yesterday.

PETR ILIICHEV (Russian Federation) said Mr. Churkin had been a highly professional diplomat and a most spiritual person, describing his deep knowledge of the issues.  The late diplomat had worked in the most crucial positions abroad, defending his country’s position, and had often found solutions to impossible situations, he said, adding that Mr. Churkin had been respected by all, even those who did not agree with him.  Noting that the Mission of the Russian Federation had received hundreds of calls expressing condolences, he said Mr. Churkin would always be remembered as a diplomat and leader who was demanding of all while upholding the highest standards.

Others delivering statements in tribute were senior officials and representatives of Uruguay, China, Ethiopia, Bolivia, Kazakhstan, Japan, United States, United Kingdom, France, Senegal, Italy, Egypt and Sweden, as well as the Secretary-General.

Briefings

ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said European countries had been at the forefront of conflict prevention, their institutions demonstrating the effectiveness of binding States together with rule-based mechanisms to resolve differences without violence.  Noting that European societies were multicultural, multi-confessional and multi-ethnic, he described diversity as a source of creativity and innovation.  However, peace and prosperity in Europe must not be taken for granted, he said, emphasizing the need for multilateral institutions and solid regional organizations to maintain peace and stability in the face of new challenges and threats, including populism, nationalism, xenophobia and violent extremism.

Noting that the Council was seized of many conflict situations in Europe, he said the United Nations was working with regional organizations and mechanisms to deal with them.  It was leading peace negotiations in Cyprus, he said, adding that he and the Organization were at the disposal of the two Cypriot communities and the guarantor Powers in support of the search for a solution acceptable to all.  The United Nations was also working alongside the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the European Union in co-chairing the Geneva International Discussions on Georgia, he said.  In the Balkans, the Organization was working with regional partners to support a sustainable peace in Kosovo — in the context of Security Council resolution 1244 (1999) — and facilitating discussions on the so-called “name issue” between the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Greece.  Elsewhere, United Nations efforts completed those of the OSCE, European Union and others in addressing situations in the South Caucasus and the Republic of Moldova, as well as Ukraine.

He went on to emphasize that the term “frozen conflict”, often used to describe conflicts in Europe, was misleading, pointing out that until peace agreements were signed and implemented, the risk of renewed violence remained, as seen last April in Nagorno-Karabakh.  The United Nations supported the OSCE’s Minsk Group and urged parties to conflict to fully implement agreed conflict-prevention measures, show greater political will and renew a sustainable and comprehensive negotiation process.  However, the Transnistria conflict in the Republic of Moldova remained unresolved, he said, pointing out that despite the progress made by the OSCE-led “5+2” process, more must be done to realize a lasting settlement for people on both sides of the River Dnister.  As for the Western Balkans, he stressed that it was crucial to guard against eroding the progress made over the past 20 years in Bosnia and Herzegovina and elsewhere.  He also urged continuing efforts to normalize relations between Serbia and Kosovo, and to resolve the “name issue”.

While the crises in Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014 demonstrated that Europe remained at risk of new conflicts, he said, the Ukraine conflict showed how localized violence could escalate into more serious confrontations.  Direct challenges to national sovereignty and territorial integrity recalled the need to strengthen a rules-based international order in the maintenance of international peace and security, in accordance with the United Nations Charter, he said.  The United Nations remained committed to supporting a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Ukraine, in accordance with the relevant Council and General Assembly resolutions and in such a manner as to uphold that country’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence.  He urged all stakeholders to avoid unilateral steps that would further complicate peace efforts.

No single factor could be blamed for conflicts in Europe, he said, noting that in many cases, peace agreements were simply not being implemented.  In others, democratic governance and the rule of law had been challenged, and ethnic, economic, religious and communal tensions manipulated for personal or political gain, fuelled in part by worsening geopolitical rivalries.  “Whatever the causes may be, the inability of regional and international institutions — including our own — to prevent and resolve conflicts is seriously undermining their creditability and making it more difficult for them to succeed in the future,” he said, calling for an honest reflection of that “vicious cycle” and encouraging Member States, the Council, regional mechanism and all stakeholders to intensify efforts to define a contemporary peace and security agenda.  The status quo was not acceptable, he said, underlining the need for those with influence to do more to resolve existing conflicts and prevent the escalation of tensions that could lead to new ones.  That was essential to safeguarding European stability and cooperation, and the United Nations stood ready to support such efforts, he added.

LAMBERTO ZANNIER, Secretary-General, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), recalled that the institution had been founded in order to provide a holistic view of security and build bridges.  It had played a clear and active role under Chapter VIII of the United Nations Charter throughout its history, he said, recalling that the OSCE Mission in Kosovo — linked to Security Council resolution 1244 (1999) — had taken a leading role in building institutions, democracy and human rights there, and continued to support election systems while promoting peaceful inter-ethnic relations.

Citing increasing threats from violent extremism, radicalization and terrorism around Europe, he stressed that “the challenge of countering these threats transcends old dividing lines and national interests”.  The crisis in and around Ukraine also remained a major source of the regional tensions and instability characterizing the return of geopolitics to the OSCE agenda.  More now than ever before, inter-State relations were governed by a zero-sum mentality “that we hoped we had left behind”, he said.  The OSCE’s swift and flexible response to the unfolding Ukraine crisis in 2014 had been the most visible example of its ability to live up to its Chapter VIII responsibilities and to take collective action in addressing a crisis both at the political level and on the ground, he added.

Indeed, the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine was larger than any it had run before, he continued.  Although unarmed and civilian in nature, the Mission was performing such quasi-peacekeeping functions as monitoring and verifying the ceasefire and withdrawal of heavy weapons, thereby breaking new ground in the area of peace operations.  Highlighting the Mission’s productive relationship with various United Nations entities, including the Security Council, he said progress towards a peaceful resolution of the Ukraine conflict nevertheless continued to elude the international community.  Although the Mission remained closely involved in supporting adherence to the ceasefire and implementation of the Minsk agreements, it could not prevent ceasefire violations or force the withdrawal of weapons returned to the line of contact, he said, underlining the need for political engagement to that end by all sides involved, as well as the international community.

Turning to the OSCE’s role in addressing other protracted conflicts throughout the region, he said the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh had seen a worrying deterioration on the ground.  The hostilities that had erupted in April 2016 had contributed to the highest number of soldiers and civilians killed and wounded in a single year since the May 1994 ceasefire, he said, emphasizing that the use of heavy weapons and the clear targeting of villages had set a disturbing precedent, with a high risk of further fighting.  Meanwhile, the Transnistria settlement process required fresh determination to move forward, and the OSCE had not managed to restore its presence in Georgia following the conflict in 2008, he added.

While expressing strong support for the Secretary-General’s efforts to launch a “surge in diplomacy for peace” and to adopt a comprehensive conflict-prevention approach marrying peace and security, sustainable development and human rights, he stressed that effective-conflict prevention and resolution called for building strong coalitions among international organizations, civil society and the private sector.  The inclusion of women at all stages of the conflict cycle was also key, he said, voicing optimism about the launch of the Secretary-General’s Mediation Initiative to enhance capacity both in the field and at Headquarters.  Among other activities, the OSCE had established a Joint Strategic Work Plan with the Department of Political Affairs entailing an exchange of experts from the OSCE Mediation Roster and the United Nations Standby Team.

HELGA SCHMID, Secretary-General, European External Action Service, European Union, said that increasingly complex conflicts must be addressed through local, regional and international efforts.  Commending the Secretary-General’s focus on conflict prevention and mediation, she said it went hand in hand with the European Union’s global strategy aimed at addressing conflicts early.  Promoting stability in countries close to the European Union was a natural strategic priority, she emphasized, noting that the bloc’s “accession perspective” had carved out a pathway to healing the wounds of the past and fostering stability in the region.  Furthermore, through its European Neighbourhood Policy, the European Union offered cooperation on security-sector reform, tackling terrorism, extremism and organized crime, and strengthening cybersecurity.

Emphasizing that the European security order was based on the principles of sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of States, she said it was unfortunate that those long-standing principles were not being respected.  Referring to the crisis in Ukraine, she said:  “We continue to condemn and will not recognize the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol.”  Calling upon both parties to implement the Minsk agreements in full, she stressed that conflicts obstructed peace, stability and regional development, requiring a consolidated effort to manage and resolve.  The European Union supported a peaceful settlement of the Transnistrian conflict, she said, adding that, in relation to Nagorno-Karabakh, its Special Representative was supporting the efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group and promoting peacebuilding activities.

Statements

PAVLO KLIMKIN, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine and Council President for February, recalled that the issue of European security had been at centre stage during last week’s annual Munich Security Conference, but conflicts on the continent had not received the attention they deserved.  “Given the shockwaves that European conflicts can send around the globe with grave implications for the security and stability of the world, this needs to be redressed,” he said, emphasizing that ignoring conflicts in Europe and failing to learn from them was no longer an option.  “We need to put security in Europe back into the focus of the Security Council.”

He said strong institutions and shared standards and principles were intended to serve as efficient safeguards of the international security order, with peaceful inter-State dialogue based on the “sovereign right of every State to choose its own destiny” and respect for human rights as their core elements.  However, both of those pillars were now being consistently undermined.  While European security had always underpinned global security, which had evolved as a champion of security following two world wars, Europe itself was today under threat once again, he noted.

Pointing out that all the continent’s remaining conflicts had the Russian Federation’s active involvement in common, he said that nation used a strategy intended to “instigate, participate, support and then derail”, instead of mediating, in order to create a number of volatile hotspots across Europe that could be activated in the Russian Federation’s own interest.  If that country’s aggression went unchecked, every protracted conflict would turn “hot” while the aggressor continued to create new threats and challenges in stable places, he warned.

“The problem for the United Nations is that the architect of this strategy is sitting at this table as a permanent member,” he stressed.  Describing the Russian Federation’s aggression against Georgia in 2008 as a litmus test for European security, and a “warning sign that was not heeded”, he said it had vigorously activated its strategy in Ukraine since 2014, including by illegally occupying Crimea and part of Donbas.  In the latter case, some 10,000 people had been killed and more than 22,000 wounded to date, while Crimea had become a “grey zone” marred by injustice, terror and repression.  The occupying authorities committed systematic human rights violations and sought to destroy the identity of the peninsula’s Ukrainians and indigenous people, the Crimean Tartars, he added.

The global and European order based on the rule of law had reached a tipping point, he said, outlining two options:  ever-increasing destabilization, or international consolidation around strengthening institutions and ensuring full adherence to international law.  “Russia exploits weaknesses,” he said, underlining that the country abused its veto power in the Council, as well as the OSCE’s consensus rule.  In that regard, there was urgent need to reform the Council in order to eliminate abuse of veto power, he said, adding that it was no longer acceptable that paragraph 3 of the Charter’s Article 27 — that “a party to a dispute shall abstain from voting” — was still blatantly ignored.

“The United Nations should not shy away from taking a more proactive approach in conflict management and resolution,” he continued, emphasizing that the Organization was only as strong as its members wanted it to be.  The Secretary-General should also not shy away from bringing dangerous developments to the Council’s attention, as envisaged by Article 99 of the Charter.  In addition, the Secretary-General should take greater initiative in providing conflict-resolution options, including possible political and security presences and methods of cooperation with regional organizations, he said, proposing, among other initiatives, the creation of a Security Council ad hoc working group on preventing and resolving conflict in Europe.

NIKKI HALEY (United States) said it could sometimes be tempting to take Europe’s peace and stability for granted, but the continent now faced several serious challenges, most acutely the Russian Federation’s attempts to destabilize Ukraine and infringe on the latter’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.  “We will not waver in our support for [the North Atlantic Treaty Organization],” she said, expressing her Government’s commitment to further strengthening NATO and increasing the related burden-sharing.  Noting that the OSCE also played a crucial role in observing and monitoring the situation in eastern Ukraine, she underlined her country’s strong bonds with that organization, as well as its deep and enduring partnership with the European Union.

Noting that the latter had made the continent more peaceful and prosperous, she cautioned that occasional disagreements between the United States and its European partners should not be misinterpreted as weakened commitment.  The United States continued to stand with the Ukrainian people, she said, underlining that her country did not recognize the Russian Federation’s occupation of Crimea.  That country continued to arm separatist forces in Ukraine and had recognized passports and other documents distributed by Russians to separatists in recent days.  While the United States hoped to build a stronger relationship with the Russian Federation, “greater cooperation with the Russian Federation cannot come at the expense of our European friends and allies”, she stressed.

Urging the Russian Federation to implement the Minsk agreements in full and end its occupation of Ukrainian territory, she said her country would maintain sanctions in place until those conditions were met.  As for other conflicts in Europe, she said Georgia’s sovereignty must also be respected.  Noting that the United States remained committed to the Minsk Group Process on Nagorno-Karabakh, she called upon Armenia and Azerbaijan to implement the ceasefire agreement and resume negotiations.  As for Kosovo, she said that while more should be done to strengthen governance there, the international community should recognize the great strides it had made and allow it to take its place as a full member of the United Nations.

ANNIKA SÖDOR (Sweden) associated herself with the statement to be delivered by the European Union.  Describing the bloc as the single most important institutional source of peace since the Second World War, she said its partnership with neighbours had never been a zero-sum game, pointing out that the Security Council had gradually handed over responsibility for peace and security in the western Balkans to the European Union.  The OSCE also offered a unique platform for dialogue on peace and security, and only when its principles were fully respected could Europe realize lasting security and stability.  In that regard, Sweden called for further strengthening of confidence-building measures and arms controls, as well as for strengthening respect for democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

As a militarily non-aligned country, Sweden’s security depended on a rules-based international order in which sovereignty and territorial integrity were respected everywhere, she continued.  It was, therefore, with grave concern that Sweden saw Europe facing its greatest security challenges since the Second World War.  “When one State decides to use military force to invade and threaten another, this is a threat to us all,” she said, referring to the situation in Ukraine.  She went on to spotlight several areas requiring immediate action to secure a peaceful future in Europe, including:  ensuring an end to Russian violations against Ukraine by implementing the Minsk process and reducing violence; acting in a manner conducive to long-term stability in the Balkans; committing to move the Cyprus peace process forward; strengthening European confidence-building instruments; and active engagement in disarmament in order to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

ROMAN VASSILENKO, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, said the European security environment had changed dramatically in recent years.  The conflicts, threats and instability on the continent were impacted by contemporary challenges including terrorism, irregular migration, organized crime and an expanding atmosphere of fear and distrust.  Kazakhstan had consistently advanced an international agenda that sought to help resolve conflicts before they arose, or to mediate with the aim of creating the conditions for lasting peace, he said, citing, in particular, its recent hosting of several meetings on Syria and on Iran’s nuclear programme.  Each had had a direct bearing on Europe’s security, and the former had concluded with a decision on the modalities of the joint operational group to monitor the ceasefire.

Emphasizing that Kazakhstan maintained friendly relations with all European countries involved in conflicts, without exception, he said the Astana platform could continue to serve as a much-needed venue for restoring confidence and reconfirming commitment to basic principles of international law, as well as respect for the national interests of the parties concerned.  “Bringing an end to the conflict in eastern Ukraine should be our utmost priority,” he said, expressing support for the activities of the Trilateral Contact Group and its working groups on implementing confidence-building measures.  The OSCE should redouble its efforts to resolve the conflicts in both Georgia and Nagorno-Karabakh, he said, while also welcoming the ongoing dialogue on Cyprus and emphasizing the need for continuing attention to the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) said recent history demonstrated that peace and security in Europe could not be taken as “a given”.  While the Council bore primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security, with each Member State fulfilling its own prerogatives, that had not always been the case in recent months.  It was legitimate for the Secretary-General to remind the Council of its duties and responsibilities when necessary, he said, emphasizing the need to respect OSCE mandates, and to recognize and support the European Union’s stabilization role.  The only way forward on Ukraine was to make equal progress on the security and political fronts, as set out in the Minsk agreements.  There was no alternative solution, he emphasized, reiterating his country’s commitment to defending that country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as France’s non-recognition of the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol.

ELBIO ROSSELLI (Uruguay), emphasizing his country’s commitment to multilateralism, peaceful settlement of disputes and international law, pointed out that in Latin America, Colombia had demonstrated that peace could be achieved through internal processes.  Conflicts in Europe posed an ongoing risk, in addition to such new threats as cybercrime and violent extremism.  Describing the idea of frozen conflicts as completely erroneous, he said progress in Cyprus, as in Colombia, was an example of parties to a conflict assuming leadership of peace processes, in accordance with the values of the United Nations Charter.  As for human rights, he said it was crucial to eliminate any limitations to the ability of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and others to address the concerns of those affected by conflict.

FODÉ SECK (Senegal) said Europe still faced difficulties that threatened international peace and security, with frozen conflicts liable to explode at any time, in addition to such emerging threats as terrorism, violent extremism, transnational organized crime, cybercrime, growing xenophobia and intolerance.  The rising number and complexity of crises required greater cooperation with regional organizations, he said.  It was important to continue discussing ways in which to strengthen cooperation between the United Nations, through the Security Council, and such organizations as the European Union.

LUIS MAURICIO ARANCIBIA FERNÁNDEZ (Bolivia) emphasized that efforts to tackle conflicts must be in accordance with international law and the United Nations Charter.  Concerning conflicts between States, it was critical to establish and sustain dialogue and diplomacy.  Formal as well as informal consultations, the Secretary-General’s good offices and mediation efforts were examples of necessary steps to prevent or resolve conflict, he said.  As for internal conflicts, he drew attention to Charter Article 2, stressing that States must comply with the principle of non-interference.  Regional and subregional organizations also had an important role to play, he said, pointing out their geographical expertise and knowledge.

Mr. ILIICHEV (Russian Federation) said that while each conflict had its own particularities, it was critical to ensure that the security of one State did not undermine that of others.  Reckless security policies had been the root causes of many conflicts and most of them, including the one in Ukraine, could have been avoided.  On many occasions, the Security Council had invited both sides to halt clashes and implement the Minsk agreements, he noted, pointing out, however, that although there was no alternative to that accord, the statement by Ukraine’s representative had made no mention of it.  Turning to the question of Cyprus, he said the Russian Federation supported a comprehensive Cypriot-led solution.  Nagorno-Karabakh, however, was a tough problem to resolve, he said, noting that although the military phase had been concluded, political agreement had not yet been achieved.

LIU JIEYI (China) said the situation in Europe had been relatively calm in recent years, yet complexities had emerged.  They included terrorist attacks and refugee crises, he said, emphasizing that addressing them required cooperation at all levels.  Although the continent had suffered two world wars, it had made remarkable progress in fostering the concept of a shared future, he said, emphasizing that States must disregard the notion of a “zero-sum game” and pay close attention to interconnectivity.  Furthermore, it was critical to settle differences through dialogue, thereby ensuring mutual respect and trust.  He stressed that cooperation between the Council and regional organizations would improve synergy and safeguard peace.

TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia) said the world was clearly living in turbulent times, adding that it was impossible to say where it was heading.  Europe was indispensable to the success of multilateral diplomacy, he said, adding that, although he could not claim to be an expert on European issues, peace and security on that continent had a major impact on peace and security throughout the rest of the world.  Moreover, Europe held significant meaning to Africa’s development, peace and security, he said, noting that the European Union was perhaps one of the African Union’s most generous and effective partners.  Parties to conflict must demonstrate the political will and commitment to reach peaceful agreement and ensure that such accords were respected and implemented in full.  Building trust was the key, he emphasized.  Adopting the multilateral approach and investing in a stronger United Nations working in cooperation with regional organizations was the sensible thing to do, he reaffirmed, stressing the importance of empowering the Secretary-General, who took his role as a bridge-builder seriously.  He expressed hope that Europe would remain true to its strategic partnership with Africa.

SEBASTIANO CARDI (Italy) emphasized the need to foster multilateral approaches to protracted crises in Europe, to leverage all available conflict-prevention tools, and respond to those threatening the principles of the United Nations Charter.  Expressing concern about the situation in Eastern Europe, particularly Ukraine, he said the only acceptable solution lay in preserving that country’s territorial integrity, independence and sovereignty.  Such a solution could only be realized through constructive dialogue involving all actors and parties concerned, he emphasized.  Expressing his country’s firm support for the OSCE’s multifaceted and pivotal role, he said Italy also supported the reconciliation efforts of the Normandy Group, which had facilitated progress towards swift implementation of the Minsk agreements.  Italy also supported a peaceful and comprehensive resolution of the Transnistria conflict, and welcomed the resumption of talks in the “5+2” format.

AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt) said the relative calm surrounding some of the conflicts in Europe did not mean that the parties concerned had reached a sustainable solution, given continuing polarization and failure to address the root causes of tensions.  Commending efforts by the OSCE and other mechanisms to restore stability to several European hotspots, he urged all parties to demonstrate the political will to resolve conflicts peacefully.  The Minsk agreements were the ideal framework for a lasting durable solution to the conflict in Ukraine, he said, calling for full implementation of Security Council resolution 2202 (2015).  Turning to Cyprus, he emphasized the need for a lasting solution there, in accordance with the United Nations Charter and relevant Council resolutions.  Egypt nurtured friendly relations with all European States, he said, reaffirming the need to move away from merely managing conflicts in favour of sustainable and durable peace.

MATTHEW RYCROFT (United Kingdom) said that everything the Council did was a direct result of conflict in Europe during the twentieth century.  Today, instability and insecurity persisted, with European borders threatened in ways not seen since the end of the cold war.  At the heart of the situation was the Russian Federation’s world view, as illustrated by its illegal annexation of Crimea and its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.  The Russian Federation must fully honour its commitments under the Minsk agreements, he said, emphasizing that it would remain under European Union and Group of Seven (G7) sanctions until it did so.  While the Council bore primary responsibility for maintaining the peace won in Europe seven decades ago, the United Nations, the OSCE and the European Union played a vital role.  Highlighting Abkhazia and South Ossetia, he said there was no sign of Russian pressure dissipating there, while a peace settlement in Nagorno-Karabakh remained elusive due to a high level of mistrust.  The United Kingdom would remain a force for peace in Europe through its membership in NATO and the Council, he said, pointing out that NATO had responded in measured fashion to the Russian Federation’s provocations while remaining open to dialogue.

KORO BESSHO (Japan) said that while most conflicts in Europe originated from long-standing ethnic tensions, many had been prolonged and exacerbated by flagrant acts that contravened the principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter.  Drawing attention to the situation in eastern Ukraine, he said that ongoing conflict posed significant threat to peace and security on the continent.  In that regard, full implementation of the Minsk agreements by the parties concerned was critical, he emphasized.  As for Crimea, Japan opposed any attempt to modify Ukraine’s borders by force or other unlawful means, he said, stressing that the so-called referendum held in March 2014 did not constitute the basis for any alteration of the Crimean Peninsula’s status.  With Europe facing emerging issues, including violent extremism and humanitarian crises involving refugees and immigrants, it was essential that United Nations system-wide efforts address the root causes, he said, adding that Japan had decided to provide an additional $750 million to that end.

PÉTER SZIJJÁRTÓ, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary, said current challenges such as terrorism and migration crisis were not limited to Europe.  Overcoming both problems depended on relations between the Russian Federation and the United States, he said, adding that when they got along, the region benefited from it.  They must sit on the same side of the table, he underlined.

He expressed hope that both countries would bridge their differences through mutual respect and dialogue.  Their cooperation would destroy Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) and tackle the global terrorism phenomenon, he said, cautioning that bad political decisions and mismanagement of crises would worsen the current situation.  Among other things, he called upon relevant parties to implement the Minsk agreements.

LINAS ANTANAS LINKEVIČIUS, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Lithuania, said today’s Europe was neither free from confrontation nor at peace.  Frozen conflicts in Transnistria and Nagorno-Karabakh, military intervention in Georgia, increasing influence in the Western Balkans, and aggression against Ukraine were not isolated cases but rather a broader pattern of behaviour that one United Nations Member had pursued in its neighbourhood throughout the years.  With its well-established full scale power system, and economic and military capabilities, the Russian Federation continued to hamper the integration of the Western Balkan countries into the Euro-Atlantic structures, attempting to preserve the status quo.  With its ongoing creeping annexation of Georgian Abkhazia and South Ossetia, it violated the bedrock of the principles of international order.

To advance the enormous challenges in Europe, he continued, collective action was needed at different levels.  While the United Nations was a key actor for effective multilateralism, there was a need to advance its capability to address complex global challenges.  Further, regional and subregional organizations, including the OSCE and the European Union, played a leading role in the conflict and post-conflict environments in Europe.  Among other things, he stressed that, the Union, with its enlargement policy, promoted the normalization of relations between Serbia and Kosovo, and reconciliation process within Bosnia and Herzegovina.

MIKHEIL JANELIDZE, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Georgia, noted similarities between various conflicts in Europe.  “We have all seen aggression, first in Georgia, then in Ukraine, and it possibly can happen elsewhere if no action is taken today,” he said.  It was particularly alarming that a permanent member of the Security Council had deliberately undermined Europe’s security architecture.  He reminded the body that it had adopted 39 resolutions since the early 1990s reaffirming Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, adding that the situation was a vivid example of why the Council must regularly monitor all protracted or dormant conflicts, rather than reacting on an ad hoc basis.

While the United Nations, OSCE and European Union have been engaged in talks between Georgia and Russia for eight years, more needed to be done in order to reach tangible results, he said.  Since 2012, his country had sought to de-escalate its relations with the Russian Federation and it was pursuing confidence-building and reconciliation with those living in the occupied territories.  Nevertheless, the Russian Federation had continued its policy aimed at the so-called factual annexation of the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia through illegal agreements with the de facto authorities there.

He called on the Russian Federation to reverse its illegal policy, comply with international obligations, including the ceasefire agreement of 12 August 2008, and grant access to international monitoring mechanisms.  He also called for the creation of international security arrangements, and for internally displaced persons and refugees to be allowed to return.  Georgia stood ready to settle the conflict with the Russian Federation through peaceful means, in line with relevant international agreements and full respect of the principles of international law.

ZDRAVKA BUŠIĆ (Croatia), sharing lessons learned by her country from the armed conflicts in South-East Europe in the 1990s, emphasized the importance of clear and precise mandates for peacekeeping missions, strict observance of international law, engaged preventative diplomacy and timely responses to early warning, and a tailor-made approach to complex sanctions regimes.  While the United Nations has been haunted by failures in Rwanda, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, the United Nations Transitional Administration for Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium — which led to Eastern Slavonia’s peaceful reintegration into Croatia — was a success, she said, adding how South-East Europe demonstrated how regional organizations played an important role in post-conflict stabilization.  As a signatory to the Dayton Agreement, Croatia bore a special responsibility for stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and it would continue to support the European and Euro-Atlantic perspective in the subregion as the best impetus for safeguarding peace, development and strong institutions.

LILIAN DARII (Republic of Moldova) said unresolved conflicts, like the one in his country, had a negative impact on the development of States concerned.  A strong affirmation by the General Assembly of United Nations norms and the principles of international law, as well as their actual implementation by the Security Council, was needed.  Council members, particularly permanent members, were expected to act promptly and impartially whenever peace and security were threatened and the principles of international law — including the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Member States — violated.  He emphasized that some secessionist entities were not just parties to a conflict, but by-products of broader geopolitical games, thus explaining their unwillingness to negotiate.  Confidence-building measures — including economic and financial incentives — would not be enough, he said, underscoring the need to defuse the geopolitical triggers which started a protracted conflict.

Addressing the Transnistria conflict, he said that despite the perception that it would be the easiest in the area to solve, it was — after 25 years — no closer to being settled.  Withdrawal of foreign troops and respect for the Republic of Moldova’s territorial integrity and sovereignty should be in line with United Nations principles and norms.  The Council’s capacity to maintain international law, rather than geopolitical interests, was crucial for smaller States that made up most of the United Nations membership.  That also presumed the need to reform the Security Council, he added.

ANDRIS PELŠS, Under-Secretary of State and Political Director, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Latvia, said Europe was home to peace and prosperity yet it was not immune to the current security challenges.  Ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine was the most recent threat to the region, he said, emphasizing the need to coordinate efforts.  The Russian Federation’s blatant violation of international law and the United Nations Charter required the adoption of new rules.  The OSCE and the European Union had an important role to play, he said, noting that their efforts contributed to resolving conflicts in the region.

ALTAI EFENDIEV, Secretary-General, GUAM Organization for Democracy and Economic Development, said progress in the group’s operational areas had been overshadowed by unresolved conflicts.  The conflicts in the territories of Azerbaijan, Georgia and the Republic of Moldova, as well as Ukraine, undermined their sovereignty and territorial integrity, while having adverse impacts on peace, security and cooperation at the regional level.  Further, they had affected the lives of millions of people, who currently were in need of protection, assistance and support.

Peaceful resolution of conflicts would contribute immensely to achieving comprehensive and lasting security in Europe, he said, citing the key role of international mediation mechanisms.  Some examples included the Geneva international discussions, the Trilateral Contact Group, the OSCE Minsk Group and the 5+2 talks on Transnistria.  In the face of daunting obstacles, the United Nations remained an indispensable forum for addressing complex challenges.

GERNOT ERLER (Germany) said Europe had to learn how to cope with refugee crises, human rights challenges, war crimes, ethnic hatred and shifting lines of conflict.  In the Western Balkans, the region was succeeding thanks to the coordinated efforts of the European Union, OSCE and NATO.  In other parts, however, too many conflicts persisted, including Ukraine, Georgia, Republic of Moldova and Nagorno-Karabakh.  Germany had taken the chairmanship of the OSCE in 2016 with a special focus on conflict resolution.  It had sought to strengthen existing conflict resolution formats, contribute to confidence-building and improve the lives of populations affected by the conflict.  However, his experience had shown that, the international community must develop the OSCE’s capacities through granting it an international legal status and enabling it to fulfil its potential.

OLIVIER MARC ZEHNDER (Switzerland) said the illegal annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation and the conflict in eastern Ukraine had pushed Europe into a major crisis.  He called upon all sides in that conflict to respect international humanitarian law and to adhere to the ceasefire and other commitments under the Minsk agreements.  Noting other conflicts in the region, he said the concept of sustaining peace was relevant for Europe, and that the United Nations was best placed to share global experiences in that regard.  He recalled the Organization’s long experience in assisting and protecting those affected by armed conflict in Europe, as well as its cooperation with the OSCE and European Union, which could prove useful in terms of early action and deployment of special political missions.  For his country, preventative diplomacy needed to be strengthened, with organizations like the OSCE benefiting from the experience of the United Nations.

MAURO VIEIRA (Brazil) said that recent and protracted conflicts in Europe were a matter of concern for all as they threatened regional stability and international peace and security.   Stability in the Balkans remained an important goal, he added, reiterating Brazil’s commitment to preserving stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  Recent tensions involving Republika Srpska must be tackled by fully implementing the General Framework Agreement for Peace.  Security Council resolution 1244 (1999) offered the framework for a settlement that could address tensions in Kosovo.  Expressing concern over the situation in Ukraine, particularly the intensification of hostilities since January, he said Brazil would continue to support the solution represented by the Minsk agreements.  With regard to Georgia, he said confidence-building measures to foster cooperation should be pursued by all parties.  Regarding the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, he reiterated support for relevant Security Council resolutions and to the peace process conducted by the OSCE’s Minsk Group.  On Cyprus, Brazil also welcomed renewed efforts to intensity negotiations to find a lasting solution.

ANDREI DAPKIUNAS (Belarus) said there was a collective interest in strengthening international dialogue and improving relations among nations, including on the European continent.  Today, seven decades after the last World War, the international community had lost the acute sense of the possibility of another disaster.  “Indeed, this time it would be the last one,” he added, warning against the tendency to demonize an opponent and act as if one had the monopoly on truth.  The world badly needed broad discussions on the future of countries.  Such discussions were welcome to touch on conflict in Europe.  Decisive measures were required to overcome global alienation.  Frank, not merely ceremonial, dialogue was critical to define the new rules of progress and development of human civilization.  Belarusians were dedicated advocates of international dialogue and stood ready to engage.

SVEN JÜRGENSON (Estonia) said ongoing and protracted conflicts in Europe posed a risk to stability and security in the continent, obstructing socioeconomic development of countries.  “The security order in Europe has been dented but not dismantled,” he said, adding that the existing system worked if all participating States adhered to the principles and commitments.  On Ukraine, he encouraged the international community to find a solution, emphasizing that the Minsk agreements must be fulfilled.  “For the first time since the Second World War, borders in Europe have been changed through the use of force,” he said, calling upon the Russian Federation to withdraw its forces from Ukraine and allow that country to restore control over its border and territory.  Among other things, he recalled that the Council had the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, urging its members not to block the body’s action.

BERNARDITO CLEOPAS AUZA, Permanent Observer for the Holy See, said that any initiative in maintaining international peace and security must be driven by humanitarian considerations, namely the preservation of life.  It was the obligation of States to refrain from actions that destabilized neighbouring countries and to work together to create the necessary conditions for peace and reconciliation.  Concerning the conflict in Ukraine, all necessary steps should be taken to enforce the ceasefire.  Efforts should be accompanied by the sincere commitment of all involved parties to respect fundamental human rights.  The Holy See stressed the need to protect civilians and to resolve conflict and find a political solution through dialogue and negotiation.

PAWEŁ RADOMSKI (Poland) expressed regret over the violation of the basic principles of international law observed in the cause of the annexation and occupation of Crimea.  He urged the need to fully implement the Minsk agreements and called on the Russian Federation to use its influence on separatists to ensure a full implementation of their obligations.  On Georgia’s regions of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, he said that any attempts to change internationally recognized borders through so-called referendums or illegal treaties must never be recognized by the international community.  Peaceful coexistence of different nations and religions was especially vital for the stability in the Balkans, he added, stressing the importance of regional and subregional networks.  The vast majority of those organizations had at their disposal instruments for the peaceful settlement of disputes.  Welcoming the role of the Security Council, he underscored the need for political will and for the body to act unanimously.

YASHAR T. ALIYEV (Azerbaijan) said February was marked by the twenty-fifth anniversary of the atrocious crime committed by the Armenian forces against the civilians of the town Khojaly, located in Nagorno-Karabakh.  It had been the largest massacre in the almost 30-year-long conflict, he said, noting that as a result of massive bombardment of Khojaly, hundreds of Azerbaijanis had been killed, wounded and taken hostage.  The current presence of Armenian Armed Forces in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan was the main cause of tensions and incidents, and the major impediments to the political settlement of conflict.  The status quo was unsustainable, he said, adding that since the first day of conflict, combat operations had been conducted inside his country.  Furthermore, Armenia’s other provocative attempt was to hold a so-called “constitutional referendum” in the Nagorno-Karabakh region to change the territory’s name.  The leadership of Armenia must realize that the military occupation of another States’ territory did not represent a solution.

GÜVEN BEGEÇ (Turkey) said the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh continued to be the most important impediment for peace, stability and cooperation in the south Caucasus.  Last year’s incidents had proved that the status quo was neither acceptable nor sustainable.  As a member of the OSCE Minsk Group, Turkey remained committed to supporting all efforts to find a just and viable solution to the conflict through peaceful means that respected territorial integrity and sovereignty of Azerbaijan.  On the situation in and around Ukraine, he said Turkey did not and would not recognize the illegal annexation of Crimea.  It supported all efforts aimed at finding a peaceful solution to the situation.  Turkey paid special attention to the security and well-being of Crimean Tatars, and their problems should be addressed by international organizations.  The situation in Donbas remained tense and fragile, he said, adding that full adherence by all parties to Minsk agreements was the only way forward.

GEIR O. PEDERSEN (Norway), speaking also for Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Sweden, said Europe had seen much conflict but also ground-breaking cooperation.  A robust, comprehensive and inclusive security architecture involving the OSCE, NATO, European Union and the Council of Europe had ensured peace across most of the continent.  However, it now faced serious challenges, including attempts to undermine its rules-based order.  The Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine and illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol constituted clear violations of international law, as demonstrated by ongoing violations of Ukraine’s sovereignty.  In that regard, the Council and the Secretary-General should assess what more could be done to restore Ukraine’s security and respect for its unity and independence, he said.  Similarly, Georgia’s sovereignty had been severely compromised and international human rights mechanisms needed access to its Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions.

GEORG SPARBER (Liechtenstein) said armed conflict had re-emerged in Europe with the crisis in and around Ukraine, while protracted conflicts in Georgia, Republic of Moldova and in the Nagorno-Karabakh region had loomed for years.  Meanwhile, incomplete reconciliation in the Balkans constituted yet another risk to sustainable peace.  Expressing deep concern at the escalation of violence in eastern Ukraine, he urged full adherence to the Minsk agreements and expressed hope that the Security Council would offer strong political support.  On the basis of its own history, Europe should be at the helm of the international community in outlawing the crime of aggression, he said, but the region’s conflicts often had an important internal dimension relating to insufficient minority protection or the grievances of communities under strong centralized governance structures.  Liechtenstein had consistently advanced the right of peoples to self-determination as a means to prevent and resolve internal conflicts, he emphasized.

RAFAEL DARÍO RAMÍREZ CARREÑO (Venezuela) noted that while relative peace and stability had prevailed in Europe over the past 70 years, that period had not been free of conflict.  Like other regions, Europe faced risks and challenges — including unresolved armed conflicts — that required comprehensive resolution from within the region and supported by the Security Council.  Regional and subregional organizations such as the OSCE played a prime role, he said, calling for synergy between regional mechanisms and the Security Council in order to avoid duplication.  The Council should also adopt transparent and inclusive policies for resolving conflict, he added.  Recognizing the OSCE’s efforts in Ukraine, he reiterated his delegation’s support for the Minsk agreements as the only way to end the conflict peacefully.  Noting that Kosovo remained a major matter on the European peace agenda, he expressed Venezuela’s support for the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and the European Union mission, while reaffirming Serbia’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence.  Venezuela also recognized progress in Cyprus, he said, encouraging the island nation’s Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders to demonstrate the political will necessary to resolve the dispute between their respective communities.  Speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, he cited the multiple threats confronting the world, including those created by colonialism, neocolonialism, occupation and terrorism.  He also deplored the fact that the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan remained unresolved.

ZOHRAB MNATSAKANYAN (Armenia) said challenges and threats that had emerged in Europe during the 1990s were the result not only of geopolitical processes or religious, ethnic and territorial disputes, but also of denying peoples’ right to freedom and self-determination.  The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict was a case in point, he emphasized, describing it as a struggle against a historical injustice of the 1920s and against persistent discrimination throughout 70 years of Azerbaijani rule.  It was also a struggle for survival resulting from outright aggression, war and ethnic cleansing unleashed by the newly independent Azerbaijan in the early 1990s.

People in Nagorno-Karabakh were struggling against a claim of sovereignty by a despotic regime that had a shocking human rights record, he continued.  Azerbaijan’s renewed aggression against Nagorno-Karabakh, starting in April 2016, was a stark reminder of the need to support the peace process led by the OSCE Minsk Group.  Ceasefire agreements signed in 1994 and 1995 were the foundation of the prevailing cessation of hostilities, he stated.  Urging Azerbaijan to demonstrate genuine political will in advancing the peace process on the basis of the principles put forward by France, Russian Federation and the United States, as Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, he expressed deep appreciation to the Security Council and the Secretary-General for supporting their efforts, which represented the only internationally agreed negotiating format for a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

ILEANA DINCULESCU (Romania) said that alongside Transnistria in the Republic of Moldova, South Ossetia and Abkhazia in Georgia, and Nagorno-Karabakh, the risk of another protracted conflict around Ukraine’s Donbas region remained high and full implementation of the Minsk agreements was the only available tool for realizing a political solution and enduring peace.  Resolving the conflict in the Transnistria region of the Republic of Moldova remained a matter of high priority for Romania, she emphasized, adding that the “5+2” format was the only one for a negotiated and sustainable solution, she said, expressing hope that all involved parties would support that negotiation format when Austria would be in the OSCE chair.

ONDINA BLOKAR-DROBIC (Slovenia) said there would be no stability without resolving protracted conflicts.  There was a need to invest more in solutions through dialogue, as well as diplomatic and political tools.  Emphasizing the importance of cooperation between the United Nations and regional bodies, she said that since more regional organizations were establishing an autonomous role in crisis management, it would be beneficial for all to cooperate on the basis of comparative advantage.  She went on to express concern about the aggravating situation in eastern Ukraine, emphasizing that talks in the Normandy format, as well as OSCE efforts, must continue.  Regarding South Ossetia and Abkhazia, she said the Geneva talks in that regard were critical in ensuring security and stability in the region.

CAITLIN WILSON (Australia) said that while the Council spent much of its time on situations in Africa, today’s debate was a reminder that no region was immune from conflict.  “The international community cannot take for granted the stability and prosperity Europe has enjoyed for decades,” she said, emphasizing the need for hard work in protecting gains.  Australia remained deeply concerned that aggression against Ukraine had resulted in the unlawful purported annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and to conflict in eastern Ukraine that had killed nearly 10,000 people.  More than 2 million had fled the region since April 2014 and more than 1 million continued to live in dire conditions near the front line, she noted.  Indeed, that conflict had led to the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in July 2014, she recalled, saying the international community could not forget that tragedy.  Australia was working closely with the Joint Investigation Task Force countries to hold those responsible to account, she said.

MARC-ANDRÉ BLANCHARD (Canada) said the international community had a stake in a stable, peaceful and prosperous Europe.  Canada’s commitment to European security remained steadfast, as demonstrated by its long-standing participation in key institutions such as NATO and the OSCE, as well as its partnership with the European Union and the Council of Europe.  The United Nations and regional organizations must work together to best leverage their comparative expertise, knowledge and capabilities in the pursuit of peace in the region.  The European Union had successfully contributed to stability by fostering institutions, structures and norms that embraced diversity and advanced the rule of law, he noted.  Similarly, Canada valued the OSCE’s current efforts in Ukraine, where its Special Monitoring Mission served as a critical confidence-building measure.  “European security need not be a zero-sum game, but the sovereign rights of countries to determine their futures must be respected,” he said, emphasizing that Canada did not and would not recognize the Russian Federation’s illegal annexation of Crimea.

MICHAEL MAVROS (Cyprus) said closer cooperation and strategic coordination at the regional and international levels would lead to more targeted and effective response to existing threats and dangerous developments.  He expressed gratitude to the Security Council and the Secretary-General for their continuous efforts towards the peaceful and lasting solution in line with international law and relevant resolutions.  The ongoing negotiation process had reached a critical juncture, he said, adding that the convening of a conference to address the withdrawal of foreign troops and the abolition of the anachronistic system of guarantees was a milestone.  He expressed hope that all involved parties would demonstrate commitment and political will so that efforts would yield results.

PHILLIP TAULA (New Zealand), expressing concern at old animosities reasserting themselves in some parts of Europe, said such tensions showed the need for the United Nations system and the Security Council to increase their conflict prevention capability.  He hoped the Council would keep making good use of such tools as the Secretariat’s regular situation awareness briefings and the Council’s own visiting missions in order to prevent conflicts before they broke out.  Unclogging the Council’s heavy agenda would help it focus on problem-solving and prevention, rather than on managing conflict.  Addressing particular conflicts, he reiterated New Zealand’s support for the territorial integrity of Ukraine and Georgia, and hoped to see commitment from all parties to resolving tensions in Nagorno-Karabakh.

MARC PECSTEEN DE BUYTSWERVE (Belgium), associating himself with the European Union, said it seemed that war had once against become an acceptable option and, for some, a means for continuing aggressive diplomacy.  That was a serious regression that went against the values of the United Nations Charter.  Recourse to war and violence only created new threats.  Europe today was an example of successful political reconciliation between historic adversaries, he said, adding that the Union was a source of inspiration for overcoming contemporary conflicts.  He emphasized the role of multilateral institutions such as OSCE and NATO and underscored how they could complement the efforts of the United Nations.  He went on to recall how, 50 years ago, the then-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belgium proposed an innovative vision, called the “Harmel Doctrine”, which opened a path to East-West détente with its emphasis on confidence-building dialogue.  It was still relevant today, he said, voicing full support for the Secretary-General’s efforts to enhance the conflict prevention capacities of the United Nations.

MURNI ABDUL HAMID (Malaysia) said the conflicts in Crimea and eastern Ukraine constituted a direct challenge to the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter.  It was difficult to imagine that one could blatantly disregard the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of States, and gain territory by illegal use of force.  Furthermore, what had started off as a conflict in Europe had later escalated, and affected her State, with the shocking downing of Malaysian airlines flight MH17 in July 2014.  “There is no lack of mechanism to address the conflicts in Europe.  Instead, what is lacking is political will by the conflicting parties to adhere to the United Nations Charter, the Helsinki Final Act, and various resolutions,” she stressed.

MILAN MILANOVIĆ (Serbia) said sovereign equality of States, non-interference in the internal affairs of other nations, settlement of disputes by peaceful means, and respect for diversity continued to be cornerstones of sustaining international relations.  Serbia’s national priority remained the quest for a political solution to the question of Kosovo and Metohija.  His country also attached importance to the activities of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).  A status-neutral presence of the Mission was of paramount importance for the stability and the creation of conditions conducive to achieving a durable and sustainable solution.  In addition, he expected the Mission to carry out its mandate under Council resolution 1244 (1999), especially in the areas essential for the dignified life of the Serbs.  His country was firmly committed to the political dialogue conducted between Belgrade and Pristina with the facilitation of the European Union and the implementation of its agreements.  In that context, the establishment of the Community of Serb Municipalities continued to be a priority issue.

ŽEJKO PEROVIĆ (Montenegro) urged recognizing the need for decisive action in finding new ways to rebuild peaceful and resilient societies.  “We all know that prevention can and does work and that our Organization can do better,” he said, underscoring the importance of the United Nations early detection and early warning mechanisms.  The Council must make better use of the range of tools at its disposal to prevent conflict, he said, stressing that the only sustainable way to resolve differences was through diplomacy and dialogue.  Partnership with regional and subregional organizations in peacebuilding should be strengthened.  As an example of proactive engagement, he cited the dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo on the normalization of relations, stressing the need to involve women and young people in peacebuilding processes.

KAREL J.G. VAN OOSTEROM (Netherlands), associating himself with the European Union and Italy, said multilateral cooperation was at the heart of peace and security in Europe.  NATO, OSCE and the Council of Europe had played an important role by addressing military protection, economic and political cooperation, assistance and democracy building, and the rule of law.  Europe’s conflicts could only be resolved politically, not militarily, a point underscored by ongoing negotiations in Cyprus.  The United Nations did not need to resolve every conflict alone; the European Union, NATO and others all played essential roles.  Under the provisions of Chapter VIII, the United Nations should reinforce its cooperation with regional organizations.  The European security order was based on the principles of sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity, inviolability of borders, peaceful dispute settlement and the freedom of countries to decide their own future, he said, underscoring the roles of the International Court of Justice and the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the peaceful settlement of disputes.

BESIANA KADARE (Albania) said thanks to the contribution made by NATO and the European Union, in cooperation with the United Nations and the OSCE, South-East Europe was more peaceful and secure than it had ever been.  All the Western Balkan countries were now involved in the process of Euro-Atlantic integration and actively cooperating with each other, she said, adding:  “Dialogue has substituted conflict, even when we disagree.”  Nonetheless, although the progress made was immense, it remained fragile.  The European Union-facilitated dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia needed to accelerate and lead to the normalization of relations.  “European integration is the common denominator in the region and the most effective driving force for peace and cooperation,” she said, encouraging States to work together.

MUZAFFAR MADRAHIMOV (Uzbekistan), speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said the group was an important partner of the United Nations in promoting peace, security and post-conflict reconstruction, fostering a culture of peace, and enhancing cooperation in humanitarian, human rights, social, economic and cultural fields.  In the final communique of the Thirteenth Islamic Summit, the organization’s member States had reaffirmed that the acquisition of territory by use of force was inadmissible under the Charter of the United Nations, and they had urged for strict implementation of relevant Security Council resolutions.  Furthermore, a contact group on the aggression of Armenia against Azerbaijan had been established within the organization.

GEORGI PANAYOTOV (Bulgaria) said the United Nations had been engaged in finding peaceful sustainable solutions to conflicts in Eastern Europe, with an extensive tool box ranging from military intervention, through peacekeeping and preventive deployment to incentives of membership in European and the Euro-Atlantic institutions.  No efforts should be spared for resolving conflicts in Europe, he said, underscoring the need to respect territorial integrity, a core principle of the post-1945 world order.  Yet, international consensus on that principle had begun to erode.  Bulgaria was eager to see a peaceful way out of the crisis in Ukraine with full respect for that country’s sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity within internationally recognized borders.  Most important was to guarantee implementation of the agreed Package of Measures.  He also reaffirmed support for the unity, territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders.  He supported the Minsk Group Co-Chairs and supported negotiations for a comprehensive settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict without preconditions.

Taking the floor a second time, the representative of the Russian Federation said he had hoped that in light of the concept note, the Council would have considered ways to overcome European crises.  The parties’ lack of readiness was due to a lack of political will.  He had expected to hear ideas for the Security Council and collective efforts to convince Kyiv to fulfil the Minsk agreements.  Ukraine must understand that Package of Measures was a lifeline that would preserve its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The representative of Armenia said the path for the people of Nagorno-Karabakh was irreversible.  Finalizing that process was the only way to bring stability and security to the region.  Compromise and realism were needed.  He encouraged those who had made accusations against that country to review the records referenced earlier.  No one could deprive the people of Nagorno-Karabakh rights to organize a referendum.  In Nagorno-Karabakh, a referendum had been held on 20 February, offering the people a chance to express their will on constitutional reforms.  The top news in Azerbaijan was the Presidential decree appointing the First Lady as First Vice-President of that country.  There were different perceptions of democracy.

The representative of Azerbaijan said Armenia was pursuing a dangerous political agenda.  The Council had adopted four resolutions on Nagorno-Karabakh, condemning Armenia’s use of force and its occupation of Azerbaijan’s territory.  Armenia had no regrets of killing thousands of people, he emphasized.

The representative of Ukraine said that the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation was a clear violation of international law and Council resolutions.  That country was not in a position to criticize anyone, he said, adding that the “Russia’s borders don’t end anywhere” statement by its President, Vladimir Putin, was not a joke.

For information media. Not an official record.