Statement by Ambassador Christoph Heusgen at the General Assembly plenary meeting on Ukraine, February 20

20.02.2019 - Speech

(check against delivery)

Thank you Madame President.

First of all, I would like to align myself with the statement held earlier today by the EU; and I would also like to refer to the very passionate statement made by the Ukrainian President this morning.

Madame President, let me make three remarks. One with regard to the breach of international law that happened in Ukraine. Second, a remark on the German contribution to resolution of the crisis; and, third, I would like to turn to the humanitarian situation.

First, with regard to the grave breach of international law in the UN Charter. President Poroschenko mentioned the Budapest memorandum in his speech this morning ; and I would like to repeat and direct attention to this international agreement reached in 1994 wherein Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons in exchange for the guarantee by Russia of its national sovereignty and integrity. By invading Ukraine both in Crimea and in Donbass, Russia breached international law and the Memorandum of Budapest.  This was a severe setback for international law, but it was also a setback for the international disarmament agenda. What will other countries that are ready to give up nuclear weapons think if they see what happened then to the commitments made to the partners? Germany condemns the illegal annexation of the Crimean peninsula and supports Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity in line with the Budapest Memorandum signed by Russia. We call on Russia to cease occupation of Ukrainian territories and end its financial and military support to separatists.

Here I turn to the Russian delegation; the Russian ambassador has said that this chapter is closed. Crimea is part of Russia. No, I must say this is not the case. You cannot just breach international law and get away with it. We are concerned  about the current developments, very negative developments with regard to the Azov Sea. And again, we are witnessing a breach of international law. We call upon Russia to immediately release Ukrainian service men.

Let me come to the second point: we hold that there clearly is no military solution to the crisis. We have to do everything to find a political solution. Germany joined forces with France in 2014 and created the Normandy Format together with Ukraine and Russia. In this format, the Minsk agreement was sealed, and the Normandy Format continues to do everything to see that this agreement is implemented. We see that this agreement is the only avenue where tangible results can be achieved; the Minsk process must be upheld. Germany and France are determined to push within the Normandy Format to achieve tangible progress and improve the situation of those most affected. When we talk about the results that have been achieved, one has to say: yes, the hostilities are much less than in 2014 and 2015, but of course not a lot has been reached. We have to recognize that Ukraine did a lot in, for instance, adapting the special status law. But the crux and the basic problem with the Minsk agreement was that its first paragraph asking the parties for a certain moment to actually implement the ceasefire was not obeyed  by Russia.  With Russia not implementing the ceasefire, the Ukrainian government’s distrust in Russia made it extremely difficult for to get laws through the Rada, through the parliament, which doesn’t believe that Russia is serious. So the other part, where we are engaged, is the support of OSCE observers. Germany would like to express its appreciation for what the OSCE SMM has achieved under very difficult circumstances and we praise their efforts. We also believe that they need to continue to do their work and we condemn all attacks against their patrols, and assets, and shooting down of SMM drones. There has been discussion about UN mission deployment. Germany is ready to further explore within the Normandy Format how a possible deployment of a peacekeeping force could look.

Let me turn to the third point, the humanitarian situation. We are very much concerned about the dire humanitarian situation, in particular in the Donbas, which is under Russian responsibility. More than 13,000 civilians lost their lives. We have about two million IDPs. There are many steps that could be taken. I will just mention the bridge in Stanytsia Luhanska that should be repaired. We call on both sides to improve the humanitarian situation and to ensure full access for all international humanitarian organizations. With regard to the political efforts, Germany is engaged in the Normandy Format. With regard to humanitarian support, Germany is the second-largest bilateral donor and will continue our engagement in Ukraine. We are also concerned about grave human rights violations; in particular, we worried about the situation of Crimean Tartars and the opponents to the annexation of Crimea. We urge Russia to finally grant OHCHR unimpeded access to the peninsula.

Let me close by recalling the protest five years ago on the Maidan. Thousands of Ukrainians demonstrated for a free, democratic and sovereign Ukraine, and more than 100 demonstrators paid with their life. We will not forget their engagement and their hope. Germany will continue to stand by their side.

Thank you very much.

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