Statement by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin at the Secutiry Council meeting on Maintenance of international peace and security (Near and Middle East and North Africa)
When we convened this meeting, we thought it very important to come up with united approaches to the problem of helping to resolve the crises quickly settling the crises in the vast expanse of the Near and Middle East and North Africa.
We propose that together we reflect on what can be done today to stop people’s suffering and avert other tragedies and shocks in one of the most turbulent parts of the world.
We firmly believe, however, that any decisions we take will be effective only if two conditions are met. First, they must be truly collective, and secondly, they must be in keeping with the norms and principles of international law. Both analysis and experience have shown that lone attempts to cut the Gordian knot of these conflicts are doomed to failure.
The flawed practice of unilateral action, when one State Member of the United Nations declares the Governments of other States Members to be pariahs, pursuing a policy of undermining or removing regimes it does not like, has not only not helped to resolve the region’s numerous problems, it has created new ones. It is clear that if we are to reduce the potential for crisis, we must unite international and regional efforts, including in effective and inclusive formats and with the United Nations and its Security Council playing a central role — I repeat, with the United Nations and its Security Council playing a leading role.
A genuine pooling of the efforts of all States to counter regional threats requires an honest partnership dialogue, and that dialogue must be founded on a rejection of attempts to resolve conflicts through force and on support for the good offices of the SecretaryGeneral, regional organizations and individual Member States, without politicizing the humanitarian aspects of the issue and in full respect for obligations under international law and the Charter of the United Nations above all.
The Russian Federation advocates developing a positive and unifying agenda for the entire international community with a view to resolving the situation in the Near and Middle East and in North Africa, for which respect for the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of the countries of the region is a crucial condition.
It will be essential to work to present a truly broad front against the terrorist threat that still remains, despite the considerable successes we have already seen in Iraq and Syria. We must also put an end to use terrorist groups in the struggle for advantage in the new balance of Powers in the region. While it is important to work collectively to repel terrorism’s use of chemical weapons and weapons of mass destruction, we should never play into the hands of such outlaws in their provocations with chemical weapons by using them as a pretext for acts of aggression.
It is unacceptable for anyone to exploit such provocations by making accusations about Governments they do not like, making it all the more difficult for the experts to establish the real facts. Attempts to introduce divisions in international organizations such as the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in no way contribute to the logic of a collective search for solutions, and neither did the unwillingness to support a Security Council draft resolution on improving the methods of work of the OPCW-United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism in Syria or the desire to assign functions to the OPCW that are not considered under the Convention on Chemical Weapons and that by their nature come under the Council’s purview.
Unfortunately, at the special session opening tomorrow of the Conference of the States Parties to Review the Operation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, we run the risk of seeing attempts to turn a technical body into an arena for political battles. The keystone of our joint efforts in the region should be creating conditions conducive to strengthening a general climate of trust. This is crucial with regard to relations between the Arab States, Israel and Iran.
Let us not forget that in its resolution 598 (1987), adopted in 1987, the Security Council charged the SecretaryGeneral with working with regional stakeholders on measures to strengthen the security and stability of the region. This is obviously a complicated issue that requires discreet, painstaking discussions and a sensitive approach. But the work on it must begin, and we are ready to give all the help in our power by talking with our partners in Iran, Israel, Palestine, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Egypt, Turkey and other countries of the region. The ultimate aim should be to establish a genuinely inclusive regional security architecture that would ensure the participation of every State in this part of the world.
The first step here could be to hold a conference with the participation of the Gulf States to discuss issues of regional security. Obviously, that would require guarantees, above all from the permanent five members of the Security Council. Eventually such a conference could be expanded to other Middle Eastern countries. It will also be important to take immediate steps to disseminate a culture of peace on an inter-ethnic and interreligious basis, which would help to prevent further ethno-religious strife. Depicting the conflicts in the region as religious clashes, including between Sunni and Shia, is extremely dangerous.
It is clear that insisting on creating mono-religious societies not only contradicts modern realities, it is a way to ensure that the conflicts will drag on for years or even decades. The Russian Federation has unique experience in the area of the coexistence of ethnic and religious groups, and we therefore support the proposal of the Inter-Parliamentary Union to work with the United Nations to organize a world conference on interreligious and ethnic dialogue with the participation of Heads of State, parliamentarians and representatives of world religions. We would be prepared to host such a conference in Russia in 2022.
We are convinced that sending Security Council missions into conflict areas in the Middle East will help strengthen the Council’s unity. In those areas and all others, Russia is ready to work together with interested partners in an open and impartial manner and without threats or negative pressure.