Earlier this week, Russia rejected a proposal from France to limit the use of the Security Council veto. This is the first time the proposal, known as the “French Initiative”, has met with public opposition from another permanent Security Council member.
Russian ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, denounced the proposal as “populist” on Wednesday, and announced that Russia was against it. If the proposal is to work, all five permanent members need to support it.
The proposal is a reaction to the calls for reform of the Council. It does not, however, call for a change in the UN Charter or in the make-up of the Council or its permanent membership.
France is proposing a limit on the use of the veto in cases when mass atrocities have occurred. France, along with Great Britain, has not used the veto power since 1989. The remaining three permanent members, China, Russia, and the United States, have all used their privilege frequently throughout the soon-to-be 70 years of the United Nations.
India’s decades-long pursuit of a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council has been hit by a setback as three permanent members have come out against proposals by the Indian government.
Security Council reform has been the topic of international talks for years, and India is seen as a likely candidate for any new permanent seat on the Council that may result from them. This week however, three main players – China, Russia and the United States all made statements contrary to the Indian position.
Russia and China both published letters insisting that there should be no in-depth reform of the Security Council. China, especially, is seen as opposed to the idea of India on the Council – a change that would put the two regional superpowers, and the world’s two most populous states, at the table in New York.
The United States, generally a supporter of India’s bid, also came out against the text-based negotiations proposed by India on the topic. This is likely a result of India’s strategy of not specifying potential new permanent members, something that the US insists on.
While Security Council reform is generally supported in the UN General Assembly, the issue is more contentious within the Council itself. Additionally, the so-called Coffee Club, a group including Pakistan and several other non-P5 states, are criticizing the proposals of reform advocates.
Indian officials have stated that they will continue to push for reforms of the Council.
Update: Since the initial publication of this article, Russia has vetoed the draft resolution proposing an international tribunal to investigate the downing of flight MH17. The vote was held in a Security Council meeting on July 29th.
Russia opposes a draft resolution on the establishment of a criminal tribunal to investigate the crash of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 last year. News sources report that Russian officials call the draft resolution “counterproductive” and “an attempt to organize a grandiose, political show, which only damages efforts to find the guilty parties.”
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was shot down over the Ukraine in July last year in an incident that killed all 298 passengers and sparked an international crisis. The flight was headed from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur and most of the passengers were Dutch nationals. Western countries and the Ukraine have accused Ukrainian rebels of the shooting and Russian authorities of supporting the rebels.
A draft resolution on the establishment of a tribunal to investigate the events was distributed to the Security Council last week. It is backed by Council member Malaysia and supported by non-members the Netherlands, Belgium, Ukraine and Australia. Russia quickly dismissed the draft, citing bad timing and accusing the backers of the draft of trying to make a “political show”.
Among the critical voices from the Russian Federation is UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin who said Friday that he sees “no future whatsoever” for the draft resolution. Russia has also denied that the state supplied the Ukrainian rebels with the weapons system claimed to have been used to fire on the aircraft.
A final report by Dutch investigators is expected shortly. The initial report, published in September last year, established that the aircraft had been hit by a “number of high-energy objects”, suggesting it was shot down.
“A tribunal established by the council would ensure broad international support for prosecutions and would maximize the prospects of securing international cooperation, which will be necessary for an effective prosecution” Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop, said in support of the current draft resolution.
The downing of MH17 drew heavy attention last year as it concerned not only Russia and the Ukraine but also Malaysia, the Netherlands and several other states whose nationals were among the killed. It followed only months after another Malaysian Airlines flight went missing en route to Beijing, causing fear among passengers. There are no links between the incidents, however.