Statement by Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia at the UN Security Council Meeting on Colombia
We are glad to welcome you in the Chair of the Security Council. We also welcome Minister of Foreign Affairs of Colombia Carlos Trujillo and the Colombian delegation at this meeting.
We thank Head of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia Carlos Ruiz Massieu for his presentation of the Secretary-General report and an in-depth review of the Mission’s work and of latest developments in the country to have taken place over the recent three months.
All the interlocutors we talked to during the visit emphasized the important role of the UN Verification Mission and the demandedness of its presence in the country as a guarantee for implementation of peace agreements.
Thanks to the report of the Secretary-General, the Council was well prepared for its country-visit to Colombia on 11-14 July. We thank the Government of Colombia and the UNVMC for the perfect organization of this visit.
In light of this, we will base our today’s statement on the impressions we received during that trip, because this country-visit proved that seeing is believing. We could see with our own eyes all the delicate workings: difficulties and successes of implementing the peace agreement.
I can say that one of the highlights of the visit was acquaintance with wonderful consumer qualities of a fruit called “tree tomato”. The distinguished representative of Great Britain does not even suspect how much up to the point he was, because as he spoke about the prospects of marketing this fruit in Russia, I was searching the web for places to buy this fruit in New York. I trust Russia is not the only prospective market for this fruit.The European Union could participate as well, in particular Germany, because as far as I could see, my friend Christoph also enjoyed tree tomatoes.
Now down to business. I would like to start by saying that Colombia is a fine model of effective international assistance to stabilization in the country.
This support was possible because the Colombians themselves achieved a game-changing Final Peace Agreement. Over the 2.5 years since the signing of the agreement the country has done a lot – in 2017 ex-combatants completed the process of surrender of weapons; recently the Special Jurisdiction for Peace started its full-fledged operation. It is these positive steps that ensure support of the Secretary-General and the Security Council for the Colombian peace process.
We welcome commitment of the Government to its obligations under the Final Peace Agreement. We received renewed assurances of this during our trip to Colombia. Practical implementation of this commitment should be set forth though it does not always come easy.
The most vivid example of this from the recent time was President Ivan Duque enacting the Statutory Law for Special Jurisdiction for Peace on 6 June. It is no secret that argument around this document used to polarize the society for a long time, despite the fact that the Law was foreseen by the Final Peace Agreement. There are more of such not easy but necessary decisions to come. Therefore, we fully share the view of the Secretary-General that pending constitutional reforms in Colombia ask for a broad internal dialogue. This is a very responsible stage, and the Government should focus on consolidating the people.
However, apart from this, there are a lot of things to do – the way to true stabilization will be a long one. During the visit, we heard people criticize the agricultural reform and lack of financing for governmental programs. We also heard concerns about the fate of reintegration zones (TATR) that are key for people’s getting back to peaceful life. Ex-combatants who laid down arms should become a full-fledged part of the Colombian community, possessing equal political, social and economic rights and opportunities.
An important aspect – many spoke about this – is ensuring security in the areas liberated from the internal armed conflict. The report of the Secretary-General clearly indicated that lacking presence of state authorities at those vast areas increases security risks for peaceful population, including former combatants who have laid down arms. Illegal armed formations that strive to win control over those areas, pose a threat to their lives. We heard many proofs of this during the Council country visit. We understand it too well that people have a limited choice of ways to ensure their safety: either they count on protection of the Government, or they take up arms again. I trust there is no need to explain what predicaments the second option may entail.
Same goes for the agricultural reform, because people have to not only protect themselves, but to feed themselves as well. If the Government does not fulfill what it promises – people will start to crop what can feed them best.
In other words, lack of solutions to security and employment issues will definitely increase the number of dissidents. We have long been tracking with concern the news appearing in Media that some of ex-combatants quit governmental programs and get back to arms.
During our trip we used to ask our interlocutors, what they thought was key for successful stabilization in the country. Interestingly, apart from reintegration of ex-combatants, ensuring security and implementing social development programs, many representatives of the civil society told us that true peace was impossible without inclusive work with all inter-Colombian actors without exception, including the National Liberation Army. One can but agree with this, and we believe that the Government should also listen to the opinion of its people. In this context we welcomed the letter to the UN Secretary-General dated 26 May that emphasized readiness to search for political solutions of the disputes with the Government.
In conclusion, let me remind that in the Council we have on many occasions said that Colombia was a showcase of effective international assistance. Today it should become a showcase of national responsibility for the fate of the country.
In its capacity of a Security Council permanent Member State, Russia is ready to set forth its support for the Colombian peace process given commitment of the Government to a full-fledged implementation of the Final Peace Agreement.
Today some raised the situation with migrants from Venezuela, the majority of whom are at the territory of Colombia. We would like to say that solution to internal Colombian problems does not depend on the situation in Venezuela. It depends first and foremost on the Colombians.
We expect that the UNVMC, which includes i.a. Russian representatives, will continue to play an important role in integrating former members of armed groups in peaceful life and political activity.