Statement by Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia at UNSC briefing with regard to strikes by US-led "international coalition" against the territory of Yemen
We thank Khaled Khiari for the briefing. However, in the context of an obvious armed aggression against a sovereign country, we would have liked to see the UN Secretary-General as a briefer today.
The main task of the United Nations, as enshrined in its Charter, is to prevent threats to peace and suppress acts of aggression or other breaches of peace in accordance with the principles of international law. We must state with regret that yesterday we encountered a situation of exactly this sort – armed aggression by a group of countries against another state.
On January 11, the so-called "international coalition" led by the United States and Great Britain, which included Australia, Canada, Bahrain and the Netherlands, who calls itself the capital of world justice, launched massive strikes on the territory of Yemen. This was not an attack against a group in this country, but against the people of Yemen as a whole. Aircraft, warships and submarines were involved. As reported, US Navy also fired Tomahawk missiles. The attacks hit the Yemeni port of Hodeidah, the cities of Sanaa, Saada, Zabid, Taiz and Damar. The US and satellites bombed airports and other infrastructure. Fires are burning in shell craters.
Unfortunately, what we are witnessing in Yemen looks painfully familiar. We have seen the exact same pattern of destruction in Gaza for the past three months. Now, long-suffering Yemen has once again become a hotbed of hostilities in the region. The war is spreading to the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. Clearly, Washington is not going to stop there. The White House said it "reserves the right" to resume military action if there be more "threats". It does not take an expert to see that the United States will determine these "threats" and response measures at own discretion, without slightest regard for international law.
Contrary to what our Western colleagues are saying, massive strikes of the United States and the United Kingdom against the territory of Yemen have nothing to do with the right to self-defense under Article 51 of the UN Charter. Article 51 does not apply to the situation of commercial vessels. The right to self-defense cannot be invoked to ensure freedom of navigation, and our American colleagues are well aware of this. Besides, there was no authorization by the UN Security Council under Chapter VII of the Charter to use force.
Colleagues, the situation is crystal clear. Actions of the so-called coalition are in breach of Article 2 of the UN Charter. This is another military aggression of the collective West to add to the lengthy list of their “raids” against the long-suffering Middle East.
White House’s pseudo-legal justifications do not stand up to any criticism. May I remind you that "freedom of navigation" is regulated by the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. In case of a violation, the Convention allows to negotiate with the violator and file a request for arbitration or to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. Nothing in this document, like in customary international maritime law, gives the right to attack a sovereign country.
It is also striking that, while trying to find some justification for their illegitimate actions, Washington confuses its evidence. Suffice it to mention the reference to piracy (absolutely ridiculous in legal terms) in the statement by the President of the United States of. This is clear to anyone who has at least once seen the definition of piracy in Article 101 of the Convention. But even if we were talking about pirates, the Convention gives the right to detain a pirate vessel and bring the crew to trial rather than to bomb another country back into the Stone Age.
Russia has repeatedly warned against the risks of such developments. We have consistently called for a ceasefire in Gaza, including in order to prevent further regional escalation and the involvement of neighboring countries (albeit indirectly) in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict against the background of Israel's unprecedentedly brutal military operation. But all attempts by the UN Security Council to adopt a decision demanding an end to the violence have been blocked by the US. Time after time, instead of addressing the root causes of instability with a focus on political solutions, the West prefers using force. Instead of making Israel cease fire in Gaza, they provide it with opportunities to continue exterminating Palestinian women and children.
During the voting on the American-Japanese draft resolution on "safety of navigation in the Red Sea", we warned that we could not trust the assurances of Western delegations about their allegedly good intentions. From the outset, they intended to give a perverse interpretation to the vague language of that incoherent document and try to make their criminal actions look more legitimate. Knowing about the risks of such a scenario, we proposed amendments to balance the text and avoid that. Unfortunately, the majority of Council members did not find the resolve to support our proposal. But even in its current form, resolution 2722 makes no reference to Chapter VII of the UN Charter and does not authorize in any way the outrage that the United States and its satellites are perpetrating in Yemen, which could lead to a full-fledged war not only in that country but also across the region.
The US and its allies have a long record of gross violations and misinterpretations of international law.
In an attempt to cover up their aggression against Syria with a “fig leaf”, the Americans invented an absurd concept that supposedly allowed collective self-defense with a non-state entity, the Syrian Kurds, against the Syrian army on the Syrian territory. Naturally, this concept had nothing to do with international law and the UN Charter. Under international law, the actions of the United States against Syria were and remain a use of force in violation of the UN Charter, i.e. military aggression and occupation.
In a similar manner and through a gross misinterpretation of the provisions of relevant UNSC resolutions, the NATO coalition destroyed Libyan statehood in 2011.
Recently, the French have distinguished themselves by cynically calling "the right to self-defense" an obvious war crime by the Kyiv junta – a strike with cluster munitions on a skating rink and a Christmas fair in Belgorod. There were no military facilities nearby, and the time and place of the strike had been picked deliberately to increase the number of civilian casualties, including women and children.
The United States and its satellites consistently call the slaughter that Israel continues in Gaza self-defense. Although the International Court of Justice in its 2004 advisory opinion explicitly excluded Israel's ability to invoke Article 51 in relation to its actions in the occupied Palestinian territories, taking into account the peculiarities of their status.
Apparently, when it comes to Washington's hegemonic aspirations, neither international law nor the ICJ carry any weight for Americans and their allies. This is what the US-promoted "rules-based world order" is about.
The situation in the Middle East becomes critical. It is not even that the West is ruining the results of years of efforts by the United Nations and regional mediators at the Yemeni track. The problem is much broader. Such reckless and short-sighted steps destabilize the security situation and undermine the emerging normalization in the region. If the escalation continues, the entire Middle East could face a catastrophe that would outmatch everything that has happened so far. The lives lost and destinies destroyed will be incalculable. The entire responsibility for this lies with the United States and its accomplices, who, for the sake of their vested geopolitical interests, not only persistently prevent the international community from demanding a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, but have once again become the aggressor themselves.
We call on the international community to resolutely condemn the attack on Yemen by a group of countries under the lead of the United States and Great Britain that was done without a UN mandate. We share the concerns expressed by our regional partners in this regard and call for intensified international efforts to prevent further escalation of violence in the Middle East.
Right of reply:
We are not surprised by the frankly weak arguments that the United States and the United Kingdom have used to try to justify their aggression, because there are and can be no other arguments to justify it. I emphasize that there is no legal basis for their attack on sovereign Yemen. What right to self-defense are London and Washington talking about a thousand miles from their own borders? Since when has this right been extended to commercial vessels? All the more so when, as the Permanent Representative of the United States has confirmed, those vessels fly the flag of third countries.
It is clear that the self-proclaimed "coalition" has no legitimate mandate for the use of force. Protecting commercial navigation (attacks on which are unacceptable) is one thing, but bombing a state disproportionately and illegally is something quite different.
The Anglo-Saxon tandem and its satellites are once again flagrantly violating the UN Charter and other norms of international law, further undermining the situation in the already burning Middle East. New bombings and destruction – that is what Western “effective Middle Eastern diplomacy” is about. That’s what they actually contribute to the region.