Latvian president criticizes UN Security Council over Ukraine and Syria

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Latvian President Raimonds Vejonis in his speech at the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on September 30 criticized the UN Security Council for lack of timely and decisive action, stressing that past failures should be lessons for the future, the Latvian president’s press service said.

He said that the 75th anniversary since the Sumner Welles Declaration on the non-recognition policy of the illegal Soviet annexation of the Baltic states was marked in July this year. „This policy reflected the international law based principle that change of borders by force is not acceptable. The firm stance of the international community in support of this principle has been of great importance to us,” Vejonis said.

”However, far too often international order and principles have been violated and the UN has been unable to prevent conflicts or build peace or to stop atrocities. Past failures must be lessons for the future. The UN, and in particular the Security Council, must be able to implement the mission set by the Charter with a renewed sense of responsibility,” the Latvian president said.

"It is time to move forward with the UN Security Council reform. We applaud efforts to revive negotiations on this important issue. Latvia supports expansion of the Security Council in both categories of membership. At least one additional non-permanent seat should be ensured to the Eastern European Group of states,” he said.

Latvia supports the proposal to voluntarily restrain the use of the veto at the Security Council in situations involving mass atrocity crimes.

It also supports a Code of Conduct for any member of the Council not to vote against any action designed to end and prevent mass atrocity crimes, the Latvian president said.

"On several crucial occasions in recent times the Security Council was not able to take timely and decisive action," said Vejonis.

It has had dire consequences: The Security Council was blocked from playing a role to stop Russia's aggression against Ukraine and to seek justice for the victims of the flight MH17 in an international tribunal that could establish the truth on who shot down this civilian airplane," he said.

"The conflict in eastern Ukraine has cost the lives of thousands and led to the suffering of millions of innocent victims. Russia must stop all forms of support to separatists and use its influence to make them adhere to the Minsk agreements. Full implementation of the Minsk agreements by all parties is essential,” Vejonis said.

”The illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol by Russia will not be recognized. (...) Together with the rest of the international community, Latvia will continue to support Ukraine's reform process in order to strengthen democracy, economy and good governance,” he said.

The conflict in Syria has created a humanitarian catastrophe and destabilized the whole region, the Latvian president said.

“The international community must not abandon the people of Syria, and must push for a political settlement. Those responsible for the internationally prohibited use of chemical weapons in Syria must be identified and held accountable,” he said.

”Latvia welcomes the recent nuclear agreement with Iran. Full and smooth implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Action Plan is now necessary. Only then can a change in the regional dynamics towards more engagement and cooperation, as well as greater stability in the Middle East region become a reality,” Vejonis said.

The resolution of protracted conflicts in Transnistria, Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagorno-Karabakh should remain on the international agenda, he said.

“Increased migration from conflict-torn Middle East and African countries to Europe has become one of the greatest humanitarian challenges of our time. Migration challenges also persist in the Asia-Pacific region and Americas. Beyond immediate humanitarian responses, the new trends of migration and forced displacement require long-term, comprehensive solutions. The stabilization of political, economic and social situations in the European Union's neighborhoods must be the ultimate goal. At the same time, a greater focus should be put on addressing the root causes of increased illegal migration, including by strengthening the capabilities of prevention of conflicts,” the Latvian president said.

“Latvia welcomes the ongoing UN review of peacekeeping. Cooperation between the UN and regional organizations is essential to effectively fulfill peacekeeping mandates. Operational tasks need to be effectively synchronized between all involved parties. The European Union is an important partner of the UN, as demonstrated in the Central African Republic, Mali and other places," he said.

"Latvia provides a voluntary contribution to UN peacekeeping and intends, for the first time, to participate in a UN peacekeeping mission,” Vejonis said.

In conclusion of his speech, the Latvian president said it was high time for the Eastern European Group to provide the best possible candidate for the post of the next UN Secretary-General to be elected next year. He stressed that it was the only regional group that had never been represented in this position.

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