Statement by Ambassador Vassily A. Nebenzia, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, at the Security Council meeting on mine action
We would like to thank Assistant Secretary-General Alexander Zouev for his substantive briefing.
We believe it is very important to be kept regularly informed by the Secretary-General about the United Nations bodies specializing in mine action, in accordance with resolution 2365 (2017), and we see his report on a comprehensive approach to such action (S/2018/623) as one of the steps being taken to implement the disarmament agenda.
We note his efforts to maintain a neutral, impartial and balanced approach in the report that uses the facts to reflect the major measures taken under United Nations auspices in 2017 in the area of demining and clearing land of anti-personnel mines, explosive remnants of war and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). However, among the report’s significant trends, there is a notable overemphasis on the humanitarian risks associated with the threat of mines in Syria and eastern Ukraine.
We were also sorry to see that there was no reflection in the report of Russia’s mine action efforts. As one of the most active participants in the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, Russia makes a significant contribution to international efforts to reduce the threat of anti-personnel mines, explosive remnants of war and IEDs based on implementing resolution 2365 (2017), on which we present annual national reports.
In 2016 and 2017 a mine-clearance unit from the Russian Armed Forces’ International Mine Action Centre conducted four humanitarian demining operations in Syria, two in Palmyra’s historic architectural complex and in the residential part of the city, and two in Aleppo and Deir ez-Zor, clearing a total of 6,500 hectares of land, 1,500 kilometres of roads and more than 17,000 buildings. They detected and rendered harmless 105,000 explosive remnants of war, including more than 30,000 homemade explosive devices. The Russian Armed Forces’ systematic efforts to eliminate the threat of IEDs in Syria represents our practical contribution to implementing the related General Assembly resolution 72/36. Russia actively promotes technical, consultative and operational capacity-building for mine clearance.
At our International Mine Action Centre, we train specialists in the areas of mine clearance, the detection and neutralization of IEDs, the operation of mobile robotic complexes, and mine detection services. The Centre is also open to exchanging professional experience with all interested parties. In 2017, for instance, it trained 207 Russian officers and 36 foreign military personnel. The opening at the end of 2016 of a branch of the Centre in Aleppo was an important step that has already put more than 1,000 demining specialists for the Syrian Armed Forces through sapper school.
I would like to point out that the Syrian sappers trained at the Russian Centre have been supplied with modern technical detection and protective equipment for explosive objects and are already taking part in demining parts of eastern Ghouta, the southern suburbs of Damascus, eastern Qalamoun and Homs.
The Russian Federation’s efforts are crucial to restoring the infrastructure necessary for returning refugees and temporarily displaced persons to their homes. Notably, that approach is recognized in the Secretary-General’s report. However, while where the situations in Darfur and Iraq are concerned it describes on the specific work being done, the report on Syria is limited to mentioning the task to be done and then moves immediately to the difficulty of access.
Russia’s mine action efforts show clearly that the problems have nothing to do with access. In our view, the involvement of the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) in the efforts in Syria has been unjustifiably long drawn out. And the problem is not just to do with an unresolved issue with the Damascus Office and the Head of UNMAS, but also with something we are all too familiar with, the politicization of humanitarian issues by potential donors who do not want to contribute to normalizing life in Syria.
In conclusion, I would like to note that the Russian Federation gives significant attention to the development of international cooperation on mine clearance. In October 2017 and May 2018, engineers from the Russian Armed Forces held two international conferences on humanitarian demining in which delegations from 24 countries took part.
We are continuing our close interaction with the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining. Russian experts took part in efforts organized by the United Nations Mine Action Service to prepare international standards for countering IEDs.
After the statement by Asssistant Secretary General Mr. Zouev:
I would like to thank Assistant Secretary-General Zouev for his vast polyglot skills. We are looking forward to having him in the Council more often.
There are still two more languages that he should be able to master, and next time we will hear his briefing in all the official languages of the United Nations.
(spoke in Russian) Since this is the last meeting of the Security Council for the month of June — at least I hope it is — before adjourning it, on behalf of the delegation of the Russian Federation, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the members of the Council, especially my colleagues the Permanent Representatives, their mission staffs and the secretariat of the Council for all the support that they have given us, and also for the kind words I have heard today for our presidency.
It really was a busy month, in which we managed to reach a consensus on a number of important issues within our remit. We could not have achieved those results alone or without the hard work, support and constructive contribution of every delegation and the representatives of the Secretariat, as well as all the conference staff, the interpreters and translators, the verbatim reporting service and the security staff, for which I want to thank them sincerely.
Our presidency is coming to an end and I am sure that the members of the Council will support me in wishing the Swedish delegation luck in July. I hope this official football, which has been our guiding light for half of our presidency, will bring luck to the Swedish delegation and will also remain on the table, according to the agreement reached with the Swedish delegation, until the end of the FIFA World Cup.
We wish the delegation of Sweden success with the presidency of the Security Council and the Swedish national team success on the World Cup football field, and many thanks to all.