New York

21 February 2017

Secretary-General's Remarks to the Security Council Open Debate on Conflicts in Europe [including a tribute to the late Amb. Vitaly Churkin of the Russian Federation]

Tribute to Amb. Churkin - Watch the video on webtv.un.org:

I was flying yesterday evening from Lisbon to New York when, during the flight, one of the flight attendants came to me with a small note saying it was coming from the commander. The note said that Vitaly Churkin had passed away. I must confess, my first reaction was not to believe. 
I had not the opportunity to work with him for a long time, as has happened with many members of this Council.  But I always felt that he was one of these persons that represent life in itself. Unfortunately, it was not a bad taste joke, it was not misinformation - it was the truth. 
I do believe that Vitaly Churkin was not only an outstanding diplomat, but an extraordinary human being, and a unique combination of intelligence, knowledge, firmness in expressing his own beliefs, but also a remarkable sense of humour and an enormous warmth that would make us all feel a natural tendency to become friends. 
I want to express my deepest condolences to Mrs. Irina Churkina, to his family, to the Government and people of Russia, and also very especially to the colleagues of Vitaly Churkin in the Russian Mission and in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
I think his passing represents a deep loss for all of us in the United Nations, including in this Council, where his distinctive voice was ever-present for the past decade, and where I think we will all miss that voice in the sessions to come.
*****
[Bilingual, as delivered] [Scroll further down for all-English version]

Remarks on Conflict in Europe - Watch the video on webtv.un.org:

I thank the Ukrainian Presidency for convening this meeting, which is an opportunity to build on last month’s debate on preventing conflict, in the most tangible and concrete ways. 
The two global conflicts that ignited in Europe during the first half of the last century played a foundational role in the United Nations and in this Council, which was born from an overwhelming conviction that such wars can and must be prevented. 
In the past seventy years, the countries of Europe have been at the forefront of conflict prevention. European institutions show the effectiveness of binding countries together with rule-based mechanisms to resolve differences without resorting to violence. 
Les dirigeants européens ont établi un dispositif collectif de paix et de sécurité sophistiqué et se sont employés à promouvoir l’ensemble des droits de l’homme, aussi bien civils et politiques que sociaux, économiques et culturels. Beaucoup de sociétés européennes sont multiculturelles, multiconfessionnelles et multiethniques. Les pays et collectivités qui ont investi sur les plans politique et économique dans la cohésion et l’inclusion montrent que la diversité est source de créativité et d’innovation. 
Cela étant, nous ne devrions pas tenir la paix et la prospérité en Europe pour acquises. La transition vers un monde multipolaire multiplie les incertitudes et les risques. Nous avons besoin d’institutions multilatérales et d’organisations régionales solides pour maintenir la paix et la stabilité alors que nous affrontons cette nouvelle réalité dangereuse. 
À l’heure où de graves conflits perdurent en Europe, de nouveaux problèmes et menaces se font jour. Le populisme, le nationalisme, la xénophobie et l’extrémisme violent sont à la fois des causes et des répercussions des conflits. 
This Council is seized of many of the conflict situations in the region. The United Nations is working in a complementary way with regional organizations and mechanisms that were created to deal with these challenges, in line with Chapter VIII of the Charter. 
We are leading some of [the] peace efforts in Europe, including negotiations to reach a comprehensive and durable settlement to the long-standing Cyprus question. The United Nations, and I personally, are at the disposal of the two Cypriot communities and of the guarantor powers to support the search for a solution that is acceptable to all.
The United Nations works alongside the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the OSCE, and the European Union in co-chairing the Geneva International Discussions on Georgia.  In the Balkans, we work closely with our regional partners in supporting sustainable peace in Kosovo in the context of Security Council resolution 1244. Through the efforts of my Envoy, the United Nations is facilitating discussions to address the so-called “name issue” between the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Greece. 
Elsewhere, our work complements the efforts of regional actors and mechanisms, including the OSCE, the European Union and others, to address situations in the South Caucasus and Moldova, as well as the current conflict in Ukraine. 
The UN system is also fully engaged on the ground in peacebuilding, governance, human rights, development and rule of law. This multidimensional work is at the nexus of conflict prevention and sustaining peace, supporting stability in the region and beyond.
The term “frozen conflict”, which is often used about conflicts in Europe, is misleading. Until peace agreements are signed and implemented, the risk of renewed violence remains -- as we saw last April in Nagorno Karabakh in the South Caucasus. 
The United Nations fully supports the efforts of the OSCE’s Minsk Group and urges the parties to the conflict to de-escalate tensions and fully implement agreed conflict prevention measures. I urge all concerned to show greater political will, not only to strengthen the ceasefire regime and implement previous commitments, but to renew a sustainable and comprehensive negotiation process.
The Trans-Dniester conflict in Moldova is also unresolved. The 5+2 process led by the OSCE has made some progress, but more needs to be done to achieve a lasting settlement for the benefit of residents on both banks of the River Dnister.
And in the Western Balkans, the devastating conflicts of the 1990s have left a damaging legacy, while reconciliation and peacebuilding efforts are incomplete. It is crucial to guard against the erosion of progress over the past twenty years, in Bosnia and Herzegovina and elsewhere. I urge continued efforts to promote the normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina, and to resolve the long-standing name issue between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.  
The crises in Georgia in 2008, and in Ukraine in 2014, show that Europe remains at risk from new outbreaks of conflict.
The UN fully supports the Geneva International Discussions, which will soon enter their tenth year, and urges the participants to demonstrate the political will to find creative solutions for the benefit of all. Some progress has recently been made, including on humanitarian issues, but much more should be done on key peace and security issues. There is an urgent need for agreement on the non-use of force, freedom of movement and on internally displaced people.
The ongoing tragic conflict in Ukraine illustrates that localized violence has the potential to escalate into more serious confrontations. These can have geopolitical consequences that risk undermining regional and international peace and security. 
Direct challenges to national sovereignty and territorial integrity are reminders that we must collectively work to preserve and strengthen a rules-based international order in order to maintain peace and security, in accordance with the Charter.
In accordance with relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions, the United Nations remains committed to supporting a peaceful resolution of the conflict, in a manner that fully upholds the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of Ukraine. 
The United Nations fully supports the efforts within the Normandy Four, the Trilateral Contact Group, and the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission, and has repeatedly called for the full implementation by all sides of all of their commitments under the Minsk Process, both in letter and in spirit. We need an immediate and full ceasefire. 
I take note of the Normandy Four meeting on 18 February, endorsing the latest ceasefire measures agreed by the Trilateral Contact Group effective yesterday, including the immediate withdrawal of heavy weaponry. I hope this will finally translate into real progress towards peace, which is long overdue for the people of eastern Ukraine. I urge all sides to give the highest priority to protecting civilians. 
In Ukraine and in all these conflicts, I urge all stakeholders to avoid unilateral steps or attempts to create facts on the ground, which further complicate and endanger efforts to find negotiated settlements. This is especially relevant in view of the latest actions taken in relation to the conflicts in eastern Ukraine and the South Caucasus.
The international community must guard against such steps.
Conflict in Europe is not only a tragedy for those directly involved: those killed, injured, displaced, who have lost loved ones, who may be unable to access healthcare and are missing vital years of their education. 
It is also reversing development gains and preventing communities and societies from achieving their full potential and contributing to regional and global prosperity. 
Economic progress and sustainable development are based on long-term stability, which in turn requires peace and security, and respect for human rights. 
No single factor can be blamed for the emergence and continuation of conflicts in Europe. In many cases, peace agreements are simply not being implemented.  Other factors include challenges to democratic governance and the rule of law, and the manipulation of ethnic, economic, religious and communal tensions 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 credibility and making it more difficult for them to succeed in future.  
I call for an honest reflection on this vicious cycle. 
And I encourage Member States, this Council, regional mechanisms and all stakeholders to intensify their efforts to define a peace and security agenda to address today’s complex challenges. The status quo is not sustainable. 
The United Nations has globally tried and tested tools, norms, agendas, lessons learned and best practices for mediation, the promotion of dialogue, early warning and early action, preventing and resolving conflicts and peace-building. These are readily available to Member States and regional mechanisms engaged in such efforts. 
I urge all those with influence to step up efforts to resolve existing conflicts, and to prevent tensions from escalating into new conflicts. 
This is essential to safeguarding stability and cooperation in Europe and beyond, based on mutual trust and respect. 
The United Nations, and I personally, stand ready to support you. Thank you very much.
*****
[All-English version]
I thank the Ukrainian Presidency for convening this meeting, which is an opportunity to build on last month’s debate on preventing conflict, in the most tangible and concrete ways. 
The two global conflicts that ignited in Europe during the first half of the last century played a foundational role in the United Nations and in this Council, which was born from an overwhelming conviction that such wars can and must be prevented. 
In the past seventy years, the countries of Europe have been at the forefront of conflict prevention. European institutions show the effectiveness of binding countries together with rule-based mechanisms to resolve differences without resorting to violence. 
European leaders have created a sophisticated collective peace and security architecture, and worked to promote all human rights: civil, political, social, economic and cultural. European societies are in many cases multi-cultural, multi-religious and multi-ethnic. Countries and communities that have made political and economic investments in cohesion and inclusivity showcase the creativity and innovation that diversity brings. 
But we should not take European peace and prosperity for granted. The transition towards a multipolar world is creating greater unpredictability and risk. 
Within Europe, there are serious unresolved, protracted conflicts, while new threats and challenges are emerging. Populism, nationalism, xenophobia and violent extremism are both causes and effects of conflict. 
This Council is seized of many of the conflict situations in the region. The United Nations is working in a complementary way with regional organizations and mechanisms that were created to deal with these challenges, in line with Chapter VIII of the Charter. 
We are leading some of [the] peace efforts in Europe, including negotiations to reach a comprehensive and durable settlement to the long-standing Cyprus question. The United Nations, and I personally, are at the disposal of the two Cypriot communities and of the guarantor powers to support the search for a solution that is acceptable to all.
The United Nations works alongside the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the OSCE, and the European Union in co-chairing the Geneva International Discussions on Georgia.  In the Balkans, we work closely with our regional partners in supporting sustainable peace in Kosovo in the context of Security Council resolution 1244. Through the efforts of my Envoy, the United Nations is facilitating discussions to address the so-called “name issue” between the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Greece. 
Elsewhere, our work complements the efforts of regional actors and mechanisms, including the OSCE, the European Union and others, to address situations in the South Caucasus and Moldova, as well as the current conflict in Ukraine. 
The UN system is also fully engaged on the ground in peacebuilding, governance, human rights, development and rule of law. This multidimensional work is at the nexus of conflict prevention and sustaining peace, supporting stability in the region and beyond.
The term “frozen conflict”, which is often used about conflicts in Europe, is misleading. Until peace agreements are signed and implemented, the risk of renewed violence remains -- as we saw last April in Nagorno Karabakh in the South Caucasus. 
The United Nations fully supports the efforts of the OSCE’s Minsk Group and urges the parties to the conflict to de-escalate tensions and fully implement agreed conflict prevention measures. I urge all concerned to show greater political will, not only to strengthen the ceasefire regime and implement previous commitments, but to renew a sustainable and comprehensive negotiation process.
The Trans-Dniester conflict in Moldova is also unresolved. The 5+2 process led by the OSCE has made some progress, but more needs to be done to achieve a lasting settlement for the benefit of residents on both banks of the River Dnister.
And in the Western Balkans, the devastating conflicts of the 1990s have left a damaging legacy, while reconciliation and peacebuilding efforts are incomplete. It is crucial to guard against the erosion of progress over the past twenty years, in Bosnia and Herzegovina and elsewhere. I urge continued efforts to promote the normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina, and to resolve the long-standing name issue between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.  
The crises in Georgia in 2008, and in Ukraine in 2014, show that Europe remains at risk from new outbreaks of conflict.
The UN fully supports the Geneva International Discussions, which will soon enter their tenth year, and urges the participants to demonstrate the political will to find creative solutions for the benefit of all. Some progress has recently been made, including on humanitarian issues, but much more should be done on key peace and security issues. There is an urgent need for agreement on the non-use of force, freedom of movement and on internally displaced people.
The ongoing tragic conflict in Ukraine illustrates that localized violence has the potential to escalate into more serious confrontations. These can have geopolitical consequences that risk undermining regional and international peace and security. 
Direct challenges to national sovereignty and territorial integrity are reminders that we must collectively work to preserve and strengthen a rules-based international order in order to maintain peace and security, in accordance with the Charter.
In accordance with relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions, the United Nations remains committed to supporting a peaceful resolution of the conflict, in a manner that fully upholds the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of Ukraine. 
The United Nations fully supports the efforts within the Normandy Four, the Trilateral Contact Group, and the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission, and has repeatedly called for the full implementation by all sides of all of their commitments under the Minsk Process, both in letter and in spirit. We need an immediate and full ceasefire. 
I take note of the Normandy Four meeting on 18 February, endorsing the latest ceasefire measures agreed by the Trilateral Contact Group effective yesterday, including the immediate withdrawal of heavy weaponry. I hope this will finally translate into real progress towards peace, which is long overdue for the people of eastern Ukraine. I urge all sides to give the highest priority to protecting civilians. 
In Ukraine and in all these conflicts, I urge all stakeholders to avoid unilateral steps or attempts to create facts on the ground, which further complicate and endanger efforts to find negotiated settlements. This is especially relevant in view of the latest actions taken in relation to the conflicts in eastern Ukraine and the South Caucasus.
The international community must guard against such steps.
Conflict in Europe is not only a tragedy for those directly involved: those killed, injured, displaced, who have lost loved ones, who may be unable to access healthcare and are missing vital years of their education. 
It is also reversing development gains and preventing communities and societies from achieving their full potential and contributing to regional and global prosperity. 
Economic progress and sustainable development are based on long-term stability, which in turn requires peace and security, and respect for human rights. 
No single factor can be blamed for the emergence and continuation of conflicts in Europe. In many cases, peace agreements are simply not being implemented.  Other factors include challenges to democratic governance and the rule of law, and the manipulation of ethnic, economic, religious and communal tensions 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 credibility and making it more difficult for them to succeed in future.  
I call for an honest reflection on this vicious cycle. 
And I encourage Member States, this Council, regional mechanisms and all stakeholders to intensify their efforts to define a peace and security agenda to address today’s complex challenges. The status quo is not sustainable. 
The United Nations has globally tried and tested tools, norms, agendas, lessons learned and best practices for mediation, the promotion of dialogue, early warning and early action, preventing and resolving conflicts and peace-building. These are readily available to Member States and regional mechanisms engaged in such efforts. 
I urge all those with influence to step up efforts to resolve existing conflicts, and to prevent tensions from escalating into new conflicts. 
This is essential to safeguarding stability and cooperation in Europe and beyond, based on mutual trust and respect. 
The United Nations, and I personally, stand ready to support you. Thank you very much.