Statement at the UNSC High-level Briefing on Ukraine
Statement22 September 2022
Thank you Madam President and Secretary-General Guterres.
One week ago, I stood on a deck of a cargo ship in the Port of Odesa, watching 46,000 tonnes of grain being loaded, bound for Bangladesh. That same day, the total amount of grain exported from Ukrainian ports through the Black Sea Grain Initiative, had reached 3 million tonnes.
Ukrainian and UN staff in Odesa spoke to me of their plans to reach 4 million tonnes of grain per month.
Secretary General, as you have said so eloquently, those ships carry not just grain, but the rare commodity of hope. And they represent something else, too – the power of multilateralism.
In the midst of conflict, the UN and the Government of Turkiye negotiated a deal to get desperately needed grain out of Ukraine, and onto world markets. This happened through dialogue.
Through using the systems and structures and norms and institutions that we have painstakingly built over decades, to resolve differences, to find solutions, and to deliver for our citizens. These are the principles and institutions that we – all of us around this table – have a solemn commitment to uphold.
Madam President, let me recall another moment of hope.
In January of this year, the Leaders of the five Nuclear Weapons States - including Russia - declared that ‘a nuclear war cannot be won and can never be fought’.
Those five leaders - including President Putin - committed to ‘avoid military confrontations, strengthen stability and predictability, increase mutual understanding and confidence and pursue constructive dialogue with mutual respect’.
Just 6 weeks later, Russia launched an unwarranted and illegal further invasion of Ukraine – of another sovereign UN Member State; of a neighbour. And now, this week, President Putin again issues threats to use nuclear weapons.
Let us be absolutely clear. Russia's invasion of Ukraine is the antithesis of the principles of the UN Charter. It is a grave violation of international law. It is an attempt to change internationally-recognised borders by use of force. And no sham referendums can change that basic fact. It cannot be allowed to stand.
If we fail to hold Russia accountable, we send a signal to large, powerful countries that they can prey on their neighbours with impunity, which is something that every nation on earth should take note of.
This is why Ireland, yesterday, filed a declaration of intervention at the International Court of Justice, in Ukraine’s case against Russia. It is why we are intervening in Ukraine’s case against Russia at the European Court of Human Rights.
It is why we have supported action at the OSCE, the Council of Europe, the UN General Assembly and the Human Rights Council, to hold Russia accountable for what it’s doing. It’s why, with 42 other States Parties of the International Criminal Court, we referred the Situation in Ukraine to the ICC Prosecutor, who is with us here today.
It is why we support Ukraine’s efforts to establish a compensation and reparations mechanism. And it is why we will work with Ukraine, and other partners, to examine how we can hold Russia accountable for the Crime of Aggression.
But it is also why this Council collectively must consider how it acts to protect the principles and purposes of the UN Charter itself. No one country, no matter how big or powerful, should have the ability to veto the application of international law, for its own aims.
Madam President, I said at this Council in April that without accountability, there is no hope for a sustainable peace; not in Ukraine, not anywhere. And I repeat that today.
I also recalled here in April the shocking evidence I saw in Bucha of Russian forces’ disregard for international humanitarian law. That was no fabrication. The bodies that I saw tell a story.
Five months later, more mass graves are being discovered in Izium and in other areas that were, until recently, under Russian occupation.
Attacks by Russian forced on civilians, and on civilian infrastructure, have intensified further since then. The devastating impact of explosive weapons in populated areas is ever more evident - with tens of thousands of homes, hospitals and schools destroyed.
This is why Ireland is seeking the wide endorsement by States of the Political Declaration on Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas, at a High-Level adoption conference in Dublin in November.
Millions of civilians in Ukraine and beyond are being potentially put at risk by Russia’s occupation of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. I want to repeat the demand of last week’s IAEA Board of Governors: – Russia must immediately cease all actions against the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.
Ukrainian authorities must regain full control. The last thing the world needs now is a nuclear accident.
This conflict can and will end. Our collective responsibility to the UN Charter, to the pacific settlement of disputes, to the maintenance of international peace and security, demands that it end sooner rather than later.
The path to peace is clear. The country that made a deliberate decision to start this conflict must now make the decision to bring it to an end. Russia must withdraw its forces from the sovereign territory of a fellow UN Member State.
It must be held accountable for its actions, through the international bodies and structures that we together have created for this purpose.
It is not solely about Ukraine and its future. This is about the entirety of the UN membership. All of us and all of our countries. If we do not reject Russia’s actions in the clearest and most stark terms, we allow the world to be governed by force, and not through dialogue and the application of international law.
Madam President, this Council must take the lead