Ambassador Power: Good afternoon, everybody. We have just received a very disturbing briefing from Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson on the situation in Ukraine and the unacceptable treatment of Special Envoy Serry in Crimea.
We condemn the attack on Envoy Serry. And we have made clear over the past – as we have made clear over the past few days, getting monitors into Crimea is a critical task and one the Russians should welcome, given their stated concern for ethnic Russians in Ukraine. We are also extremely concerned about reports that the so-called Deputy Prime Minister of Crimea has called Ukrainian military units stationed in Crimea an occupying force. They are not.
As President Obama made clear earlier today, there is a way to resolve this crisis that respects the interests of the Russian Federation, as well as the Ukrainian people. Let international monitors into all of Ukraine, including Crimea, to ensure the rights of all Ukrainians are being respected, including ethnic Russians. Begin consultations between the government of Russia and Ukraine, with the participation of the international community. Supporting the people of Ukraine as they move to elections in May is critical so that they can choose their leaders without outside intimidation.
That is the path of de-escalation. And Secretary Kerry is engaged in discussions with all of the relevant parties, including Russia and Ukraine, to pursue that path. But if this violation of international law continues, the resolve of the United States and our allies and the international community will remain firm.
You saw that earlier today President Obama signed an executive order that authorizes sanctions on individuals and entities responsible for violating the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, or for stealing the assets of the Ukrainian people, among other things. And today in Brussels, our allies also took steps to impose costs on Russia. I am confident that we are moving forward together, united in our determination to oppose actions that violate international law and to support the government and the people of Ukraine.
That includes standing up for the principle of state sovereignty, so I also want to say a word about the referendum that we’ve seen so much about today. The proposed referendum on the future of Crimea would violate the Ukrainian constitution. The Ukrainian constitution makes clear that any measure altering the territory of Ukraine must be decided by an all-Ukrainian national referendum. We will not recognize the results of a referendum of this nature. Any discussion about the future of Ukraine must include the legitimate government of Ukraine. In 2014, we are well beyond the days when borders can be redrawn over the heads of democratic leaders.
So, again, we want to make clear what is and is not happening in Ukraine, and why it’s so important to get monitors into Crimea. And we call on Russia to allow UN and OSCE monitors to gather the facts on the ground, so that they cannot continue to be twisted as we have seen.
It is not too late, but every day – particularly with moves like that made today in Crimea – the risk of military escalation increases.
With that, I will take a few questions.
Reporter: Ambassador, you just heard your colleague, Mark Lyall Grant, say that it’s unlikely that the Security Council will produce any sort of product in the coming days. The Council appears quite clearly deadlocked on the issue. Does that bother you, and do you see any point in continuing this exercise which sort of has Cold War echoes to it?
And did you get any sense of the Russians changing their position? Is there any movement towards compromise? A few days ago there was some hope that President Putin was indicating, you know, that they were moving in a direction that was more acceptable for Europe and the United States.
Ambassador Power: Thank you for that. First, let me say that I think the word “deadlock” suggests a kind of even, 8-7, deadlock among Council members, and that’s not at all the nature of the discussions, as I think you heard in the public sessions as well, where Russia finds itself extremely isolated. Every Council member has stressed over the course of the last few days the importance of the UN Charter, the importance of territorial integrity, the importance of sovereignty, etc; and raised great concerns on the potential for escalation. So, I think there is utility in coming together in order to highlight, particularly in these public meetings, the extent of Russia’s isolation as it takes the moves that it has taken.
I would also note that, of course, part of what we’re doing is also trying to engage the UN Secretariat. And, so even without a Council product, we have succeeded, I think, as a Council, with overwhelming support within the Council, if not unanimity, we have succeeded in sending a message to the Secretary General. And he has embraced the plea, again, not just from the Security Council but I think from the broader UN membership, to get involved. And he’s of course sent not only Robert Serry, but then Jan Eliasson, the Deputy Secretary General, the highest envoy the Secretary General himself could send. And now Assistant Secretary General Simonovich, who will be there will a slightly larger team doing fact-finding on the human rights and other fronts. So, the challenge, I think, is that, you know, monitors keep encountering the same resistance in Crimea. So the practical challenge is really about, will Russia at some point stand up and call on the Crimean authorities and use their own authority that they’ve established on the ground with their military maneuvers and so forth, to ensure the safety and the access for the international communities that are sent by this institution? And Russia is very much a part of this institution. And so that’s, again, the message that we continue to send.
In terms of hope for, you know, a negotiated way out of this perilous moment, I would just say, again, that Secretary Kerry has continued to engage Foreign Minister Lavrov, European foreign ministers. We are certainly not giving up. You heard from President Obama today that while we have put an executive order down that would include sanctions for those violating territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, as well as those who steal assets, as well as those whole commit human rights abuses, our goal here is to pull Russia back from the brink, and to look out, again, for the interests and the welfare of the Ukrainian people. So our goal is what it has been from the beginning of this crisis, which is that there’s a diplomatic way out of this pathway.
Reporter: Ambassador, do you think the referendum is a negotiating point or do you think they really want to split the Ukraine and make it part of Russia? And secondly, could you kindly comment on the Central African Republic? Your position had been rumored as hesitating on building up peacekeeping forces, coming up with money. But today, people said you were all for it. So, could you explain it?
Ambassador Power: Yes – sorry, what was your first question on the referendum? My mind migrated to a different continent – negotiating, yes. I think what’s important to state about the referendum is simply that it is illegitimate, illegal under the Ukrainian constitution, as I’ve described it. I’m not going to speculate on the motives either of those who’ve announced that they’re going to hold referendum or on those members of the Security Council – the member of the Security Council – who appears to be supporting the Crimeans in this maneuver beyond to say that this would be highly destabilizing and would further polarize the situation, and gravely enhance the risk of escalation.
With regard to Central African Republic, I think there has been a lot of misinformation that have accompanied our negotiations over many, many months. As you know, I traveled to the Central African Republic in December. President Obama has made $100 million available to lift and equip and train African Union troops. And, indeed, I was present when some of those troops were brought in on American planes – the Burundians. We’ve worked very closely with the Rwandans as well to get them in there in a timely fashion. And both of those troop contributors I think have done a heroic job in next to impossible circumstances on the ground.
So we always said that it was a false choice between strengthening MISCA and the question of whether and when there would be a UN peacekeeping force. I think now that you have a European Union force deploying, alongside a French force, alongside an African Union force, alongside a UN mission, there’s no question that bringing those strands together and creating a multidimensional, comprehensive peacekeeping mission is the right next step for CAR. And that’s why we, upon reading the Secretary-General’s report, you know, are in a position today to say very plainly that we support the transition as envisaged, and now we just got to negotiate what the details of that mission are.
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