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GA/12295
7 December 2020
Seventy-fifth Session, 36th Meeting (AM)

Resolutions Calling on Withdrawal of Forces from Crimea, Establishing Epidemic Preparedness International Day among Texts Adopted by General Assembly

The General Assembly this morning adopted three resolutions dealing with prevention of armed conflict and global health and foreign policy, including one urging the Russian Federation to withdraw from Crimea and another that declared 27 December as an International Day of Epidemic Preparedness.

By a vote of 63 in favour to 17 against, with 62 abstentions, it adopted the resolution “Problem of the militarization of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine, as well as parts of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov” (document A/75/L.38/Rev.1).  Through that text, it urged the Russian Federation, as the occupying Power, to immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw its military forces from Crimea and end its temporary occupation of the territory of Ukraine without delay.

Ukraine’s representative, who introduced the text, said that by occupying Crimea and turning it into a powerful military outpost, the Russian Federation is violating international law and the Charter of the United Nations.  Moscow’s growing military presence on the peninsula represents a threat to peace and security well beyond the Black Sea region, he added.

The Russian Federation’s representative, in an explanation of position before the vote, underscored the politicized nature of the draft.  For a third year, he said, the Assembly was being distracted by a text put forth by Ukraine, even though the people of Crimea have already decided its future through a referendum.

Acting without a vote, the Assembly adopted the resolution “International Day of Epidemic Preparedness” (document A/75/L.8), proclaiming 27 December as a day to highlight the importance of the prevention of, preparedness for and partnerships against epidemics.  Its adoption came on the heels of a two‑day special session of the Assembly devoted to the COVID‑19 pandemic.  (See Press Releases GA/12293 and GA/12294.)

Viet Nam’s representative, who introduced the text, said COVID‑19 is not the first epidemic that the world has faced in recent years, nor will it be the last.  “The pandemic caught us off guard, but it also has served as a wake‑up call for improving our preparedness.”  Observing an International Day on Epidemic Preparedness can help achieve that goal, he said.

Also acting without a vote, the Assembly adopted the resolution titled “The role and importance of a policy of neutrality in maintaining and strengthening international peace, security and sustainable development” (document A/75/L.31).

Turkmenistan’s representative, who introduced the draft, underscored the experience of neutral States in such areas as mediation, conflict prevention and easing global tensions.  He also noted the text’s reference to his country hosting a conference devoted to the International Day of Neutrality on 12 December.

Also speaking this morning were representatives of Malaysia, Singapore, Cuba, India, Syria and Azerbaijan as well as the European Union.

Also speaking in explanation of position were representatives of the United States, Denmark (on behalf of the Nordic countries), United Kingdom, Singapore, Belarus, Indonesia, Iran and Algeria.

The representative of the Russian Federation spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The General Assembly will reconvene at 3 p.m., Monday, 7 December, to consider reports from its First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) and act on draft resolutions contained therein.

Global Health and Foreign Policy

The General Assembly first turned its attention to the draft resolution “International Day of Epidemic Preparedness” (document A/75/L.18), through which it would decide to proclaim 27 December as a day to highlight the importance of the prevention of, preparedness for and partnerships against epidemics such as COVID‑19.

VOLKAN BOZKIR (Turkey), President of the General Assembly, underscoring the importance of universal health coverage, said that it is time to match ambition with action and to improve health and well-being for all.  At least half of the world’s population lacks full coverage for essential health services, he said, adding that during the COVID‑19 pandemic, those hardest hit included the elderly, the poor, the displaced and others who do not have full health coverage.  Emphasizing the need to ensure fair and equitable access to a COVID‑19 vaccine, he said that the ongoing pandemic makes a compelling case for all countries to expand their investments in health care.  He also called on development partners to create incentives and support funding for universal health coverage and preparedness.

DANG DINH QUY (Viet Nam), speaking also on behalf of Canada, Niger, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Senegal, introduced “L.18”, saying that COVID‑19 is not the first epidemic that the world has faced in recent years, nor will it be the last.  “The pandemic caught us off guard, but it also has served as a wake‑up call for improving our preparedness.”  Observing an International Day on Epidemic Preparedness can help achieve that goal, he said, explaining that it would remind all stakeholders of the impacts of past epidemics and the need to adopt a permanent sense of epidemic prevention.  It would also underline the need to raise the level of preparedness while also stressing the importance of partnerships at all stages of epidemic management.  He welcomed the fact that the draft resolution had successfully passed the silence procedure and now is before the Assembly for its consideration.

MOHD HAFIZ OTHMAN (Malaysia) said the COVID‑19 pandemic has brought the world to its knees — a real‑life example of the “butterfly effect, where small deviations can have big consequences”.  The world has witnessed the extent of a single virus that has claimed the lives of over 1.4 million people globally — a human crisis compounded by severe health and socioeconomic consequences.  Going on, he noted that the world is over‑armed with billions of dollars spent on weapons of mass destruction that could cause catastrophic harm, but it is unprepared to fight this invisible enemy.  While the COVID‑19 crisis is sending shockwaves around the globe, low‑income developing countries are in a particularly difficult position to respond to it.  Adding that no nation can defeat a global disease with local responses, he stressed that countries need strong public health systems to engage, learn and cooperate with one another.  A multilateral approach is the only way forward to safeguard the future, he said, calling for a vaccine that is accessible, equitable and affordable.

Ms. HOE (Singapore) noted that the current resolution is particularly relevant as the world continues fight against the COVID‑19 pandemic.  To ensure achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, the international community must invest in quality health care, she emphasized, using a coordinated and collective global response.  Multilateral institutions like the World Health Organization (WHO) have a critical role to play in overcoming the present pandemic as well as in coping with future pandemics, she said, emphasizing the need to strengthen global cooperation.  Singapore is working at the international level to overcome the coronavirus, as no single country can do so on its own, also stressing the need for global access to a vaccine.

PEDRO LUIS PEDROSO CUESTA (Cuba) said the pandemic is leading to serious socioeconomic consequences for all countries, but developing States will pay the highest cost, on top of the deprivations driven by the unfair current world order.  There can be no progress on global health as long as that unfair order continues.  He noted that under the stresses of the crisis, some States are also overlooking other health targets such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and non‑communicable diseases.  It is an unsustainable paradox that the international community has ample scientific resources, yet millions die from diseases worldwide.  He emphasized that in the context of the pandemic, some States are using unilateralism to reserve the means to deal with the pandemic for themselves, contravening the Charter of the United Nations.  Cuba has also seen an upsurge in the unfair United States embargo, in place for more than six decades in clear violation of human rights, posing the main obstacle to its social and economic development.  He cited losses incurred of more than $5 billion, significantly in the health sector, and some $3 trillion over the course of the embargo, which also deprives Cuba of resources for diagnostic means and medicines.  The United States is using the pandemic to deprive people of crucial resources, meaning the difference between saving or losing lives, and has also tried to spread false accusations about the resources Cuba deploys to assist other States, thereby jeopardizing access to high‑quality health care for millions of people.

PANKAJ SHARMA (India) said a healthy life is every person’s basic right, and it is the responsibility of Governments to ensure it.  Health does not just mean freedom from diseases, he noted, but an all‑inclusive wellness.  India takes a holistic approach, with a special emphasis on prevention of diseases including diabetes and hypertension, featuring such practices as yoga.  The country also prioritizes affordability, he noted, launching a national health protection scheme expanding primary health care, and extending insurance for secondary and tertiary health care for the poor.  The Government now has more than 150,000 health and wellness centres operational, with over 24,000 hospitals impanelled, and is providing 26 million health cards and $7,000 in coverage per person for second and tertiary care in more than 100 million households.  The country is also slashing costs for stents and knee replacements.  On the supply side, he cited a plan to open 157 new medical colleges, and further initiatives to improve the nutritional status of people.  India is aiming to end tuberculosis by 2025, five years ahead of the Sustainable Development Goals 2030 deadline.  The pandemic has underlined systemic weaknesses and gaps in health care, he said, which must be addressed globally, removing all barriers to medicines and new technologies and strengthening the capacity of community health‑care workers.  India has remained ahead of the pandemic curve, he noted, helping 150 countries to fight the crisis.

The representative of the United States, in an explanation of position, said that while her delegation joined consensus, it disassociates itself from references to the World Health Organization in the text.  Regarding references to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, she drew attention to the United States general statement delivered on 18 November.

Prevention of Armed Conflict

Next, the Assembly took up the draft resolution titled “The role and importance of a policy of neutrality in maintaining and strengthening international peace, security and sustainable development” (document A/75/L.31).  The text would have the Assembly invite the Secretary‑General to cooperate closely with neutral States with a view to implementing the principles of preventative diplomacy and using those principles in mediation activities.  It would also welcome Turkmenistan’s decision to host an international conference on peace, security and development, devoted to the International Day of Neutrality on 12 December.

The Assembly also considered the draft resolution titled “Problem of the militarization of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine, as well as parts of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov” (document A/75/L.38/Rev.1).  Through that text, the Assembly would urge the Russian Federation, as the occupying Power, to immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw its military forces from Crimea and end its temporary occupation of the territory of Ukraine without delay.  It would call on Member States and relevant international organizations to cooperate with the United Nations to encourage and support efforts to end to the Russian occupation of Crimea, and call upon all Member States, international organizations and specialized agencies to refrain from any visits to Crimea that are not agreed with Ukraine.

AKSOLTAN ATAEVA (Turkmenistan), introducing “L.31” and emphasizing the link between peace, security and sustainable development, underscored the experience of neutral States in such areas as mediation, conflict prevention and easing tensions worldwide.  The draft resolution acknowledges that fact, as well as the positive role that neutral States plan in delivering humanitarian assistance.  She also noted that the operative section of the text welcomes her country’s decision to host an international conference on peace, security and development on 12 December.

SERGIY KYSLYTSYA (Ukraine), introducing “L.38/Rev.1”, said the text raises a matter of fundamental concern, not only for his country but for the United Nations membership at large.  By occupying Crimea and turning it into a powerful military outpost, the Russian Federation is violating international law and the Charter of the United Nations.  The peninsula remains inaccessible for inspection or verification missions under relevant international treaties.  The Russian Federation is expanding the land, air and naval components of its presence, representing a threat to peace and security well beyond the Black Sea region, with the capability of reaching southern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.  Former nuclear weapons sites have been seized, warships built, military exercises carried out and the local population conscripted into the Russian Federation armed forces.  When the Russian Federation’s delegation takes the floor, it will once again say that the issue of Crimea is closed, but the fact is that that country has brutally violated the Budapest Memorandum and that Crimea is part of Ukraine.

The representative of Syria, explaining his position before the vote, pointed to negative practices by certain members of the United Nations, which undermine efforts to prevent armed conflict.  The draft resolution reflects political polarization, which can only fuel conflict rather than bring calm to the situation.  Noting that Syria supports international law and does not believe the Assembly should be concerned with polarization and politicization in the region, he said he will vote against the draft.

The representative of the Russian Federation, underscoring the politicized nature of the draft, said his delegation will vote against it.  The Assembly is distracted for the third year by this draft but Crimea has already decided its own future in a referendum.  Ukrainian authorities disagree with the referendum referenced in this document, which itself is “full of lies”.

The representative of Azerbaijan said the United Nations is a critical pillar of multilateralism, ensuring all concerned uphold principles of international peace, stability and development.  Azerbaijan voted in favour of General Assembly resolution 68/262 (2014) upholding the territorial integrity of Ukraine, and its position remains unchanged.  Strict compliance with those norms is of the greatest importance to international peace and security.

The Assembly then adopted “L.31” without a vote.

The Assembly then turned to “L.38/Rev.1”, adopting it by a recorded vote of 63 in favour to 17 against, with 62 abstentions.

The representative of Denmark, speaking in explanation of position, also on behalf of the Nordic and Baltic countries, condemned in the strongest possible terms the illegal annexation of Crimea and interference in the territorial integrity of Ukraine by the Russian Federation.  He also cited the transfer of highly destabilizing weapons systems and personnel, urging the Russian Federation to arrest such measures as they undermine the Black Sea region.  He further cited negative treatment of the Crimean Tatar population and condemned forced conscription of Crimeans into Russian Federation forces.  There is an urgent need for unimpeded access by United Nations and the Organization for Security and Co‑operation in Europe (OSCE).  The Russian Federation must withdraw its forces and end the illegal occupation without delay.  His delegation will never accept any change to another State’s borders by force.

The representative of the United Kingdom affirmed support for the independent sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its borders, as actions therein by the Russian Federation have grave implications for the international order that protects the sovereignty of all States.  The United Kingdom does not and will not recognize the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula.  She condemned the transfer of destabilizing weapons systems including nuclear-capable aircraft into that territory by the Russian Federation, strengthening of its Black Sea maritime forces, the conscription of Crimeans into its forces, and educational indoctrination of children there.  Also noting that in November 2018, the Russian Federation seized three Ukrainian vessels in the Kerch Strait, injuring several Ukrainian crew members, she stressed it continues to display disregard for Ukrainian territorial integrity and sovereignty.

The representative of Singapore said that while her delegation supported “L.38/Rev.1”, it would have preferred a more succinct text.  All countries must adhere to international law and support the right to freedom of navigation as provided for in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The representative of the United States, delivering a general statement on “L.38/Rev.1”, said that nearly seven years into the Russian Federation’s occupation of Crimea, its increased military presence represents a growing threat to common security.  His country does not recognize the Russian Federation’s purported annexation of Crimea, he said, adding:  “Crimea is Ukraine.”

The representative of Belarus said that “L.38/Rev.1” is a one‑sided, politicized and selective text that will make it harder to find a peaceful solution to the situation.  He also noted that the resolution lacks any reference to the Minsk Agreement nor was it subject to any expert consultations.

The representative of Indonesia, explaining his delegation’s abstention, said that while his country opposes the annexation or occupation of any State or territory, some elements in the resolution might further exacerbate tensions and undermine a conducive environment for dialogue.  He urged the States concerned to focus on easing tensions and opening the way for negotiations.

The representative of Iran said that debates in the Assembly on multifaceted and highly politicized issues do not help to achieve workable solutions.  Efforts outside agreed frameworks will not lead to tangible outcomes unless they are endorsed by the respective States, he added.

The representative of Algeria said his delegation abstained for the third year on the draft as there were no consultations with Member States to address their concerns in a more comprehensive manner.  Seeking a solution outside the agreed format could aggravate tensions in the region, he said.

Speaking in a point of order, the representative of the Russian Federation expressed regret over the vote just completed, because of its absurd content and lack of impact on Crimea’s position.  Ukraine is simply acquiring one more reason to trick its population and the Assembly has become a partner in this process.  He called on all to think of the lives of ordinary Ukrainians and their Government’s imposition of a destructive economic and social policy.  He then made apologies to several affected by the Molotov/Ribbentrop during the Second World War, including hundreds of thousands of Polish Jews.

Also speaking in a point of order, the representative of Ukraine expressed regret that the Russian Federation’s statement was not a point of order, but simply a statement in abuse of the meeting.  If the Russian Federation is criticizing the draft, this only shows that Ukraine is doing the right thing.  He reminded Moscow that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin condemned the Molotov/Ribbentrop Pact 11 years ago, calling it an immoral pact with the Nazis.  The Russian Federation’s refusal to condemn it and recognize it as a pact with the Nazis suggests that Moscow is backsliding and abandoning democratic values.

The representative of the European Union said his delegation will not recognize the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol by the Russian Federation.  The bloc is committed to the principle of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its borders, and considers the annexation a breach of international law and violation of the Charter of the United Nations, which prohibits use of force against any State.  Those actions also violate the Russian Federation’s bilateral commitments, including the Budapest Memorandum of 1994.  He emphasized the so‑called referendum held in Crimea on March 2014 has no legal validity and is in breach of the Ukraine constitution, calling on all Member States to remain steadfast in non‑recognition of the annexation as per General Assembly Resolution 68/262 (2014).  Condemning the deployment of highly destabilizing Russian Federation weapons systems and military personnel, and conscription of Crimeans into its forces, a breach of international humanitarian law, he said it is crucial for that State to withdraw its military forces and end the annexation without delay.  Member States must also refrain from any dealings with the Russian Federation as they pertain to the Crimean Peninsula, and all monitoring mechanisms must have unimpeded and safe access to the territory.  The European Union remains steadfast in its non‑recognition of the annexation.

Right of Reply

The representative of the Russian Federation, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said that the Soviet Union had been forced into pacts with Adolf Hitler.  Moreover, it is blasphemous to equate the Nazi occupation with the Soviet Union, he said, calling upon Ukraine to refrain from continuing a discussion that its representative would later come to regret.

For information media. Not an official record.