Comments to the media by H.E. Mr. Vitaly I. Churkin, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations following the Security Council meeting on the situation in Ukraine
V.Churkin: Now the events had overtaken our draft resolution on Ukraine because there is hopefully a political process and we make our bets on the continuation of this political process.
Q: On Syria. Obviously you have a problem now on the draft resolution?
V.Churkin: Yes, we are still hoping that they will move ahead. It is a strange situation. We do have a text and we do have an arrangement and it seemed to me that this arrangement was about to be finally approved by everybody. But then they started having “second thoughts”. The resolution is in their hands, I cannot pretend that I was the one who was producing the draft resolution. As far as I’m concerned I would be prepared to go for it and vote on the resolution right now.
Q: Do you believe that Syrian Government should have the veto or the final decision on distribution (of humanitarian cargo)?
V.Churkin: The idea, in this formula which we produced, is the four border crossing, which the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and others were saying are very important to deliver the humanitarian assistance to 2 more million people, will be open. There are going to be arrangements which will politically respect the sovereignty of Syria and the responsibilities of the Syrian Government as the Government of a sovereign country. At the same time, the procedures which do exist will be simplified. I think it is a win-win situation, but some of our colleagues believe it is not something they want and I don’t want to speak for them to explain the reasons for that.
Q: What is the case for the statement welcoming the extraction of Syrian chemical weapons?
V.Churkin: It was another funny situation. Unfortunately our American friends behave like this from time to time. When we were having this discussion in the Security Council it seemed to me it was an obvious thing to have a press statement welcoming this milestone. It is a big achievement, something that was negotiated by Minister Lavrov and Secretary of State Kerry, fifteen Foreign Ministers were voting for it. A good story at days when we have too many bad stories. We, the Russian delegation, did a very simple thing. We took the statement that was produced by The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)and simplified it to make it easier for everybody to accept. I was sitting there naïvely hoping that I’m about to read this statement, but the US delegation said they needed to report it to Washington and asked to give them a couple of hours. It was at around 1 p.m. Later that day, at around 7 p.m., they came back with a text, as if they are about to start bombing Syria. This is clearly not acceptable for us and, I assume, for other members of the Security Council. Instead of welcoming the achievement they were trying to put more and more pressure on the Syrian Government. It doesn’t work this way. I was very disappointed because I think we need to make an effort and when there are some amendments or corrections you can see that you can work with those amendments. But then after six hours of thinking people come back with a completely different narrative in a completely different direction, knowing well that there was no chance for that statement to be adopted in this form. I think it is rather strange.
Q: Were there any impact on the negotiations on humanitarian aid in Syria?
V.Churkin: The only impact is that one of the crossing points which was supposed to be open on the border of Iraq is now controlled by ISIS. But other than that I don’t think that the negotiations are impacted in any way.
Q: Do you think that the situation in Ukraine can be affected after today’s briefing?
V.Churkin: I don’t see any connection with the briefing. Here we have unfortunately a theater thing. The real things are happening on the ground and there has been some progress. They agreed to have a cease-fire and to continue to talk. Now the people from the East were engaged in this discussion and we hope that there is going to be some movement forward.
Q: Do you see any chance to pass the Syrian humanitarian resolution under the Russian Presidency?
V.Churkin : I hope so but it’s not in my hands. We’ll have another discussion with Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valery Amos in the SC. Yesterday we had another informal round of discussions and this seemed to be what they wanted. Not only the four crossing points but also simplified procedures. Not perfect in terms of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) – as they want it to be a blanket approval - anything moves back and forth to the Syrian territory. This is not realistic. And this is not something created by us or by the Syrian Government. This is a standard procedure of an operation, humanitarian assistance based on a General Assembly resolution. The sovereignty of the Government of the country must be respected. I thought that we had found a very good way to deal with that, to accommodate the desire to open border crossings.
Q: But the situation on the ground is extremely bad. The Syrian Government controls the distribution. The UN said they that 80 per cent of the aid…
V.Churkin : Of course there are some bureaucratic things. They have existed there for three years of the conflict. Now about these four crossing points. We are offering a simple system where the role of the Government would be more symbolic than practical. There are going to be some practical things as well, but in general it’s going to be more symbolic to emphasize the sovereignty of the Syrian government which our Western colleagues did not seem to object to when we started this conversation. But now they have concerns which I do not quite understand.