European leaders addressing the United Nations General Assembly today raised the spectre of what some saw as Russia’s largely unchallenged actions in Ukraine and the march of armed militants through large swaths of northern Iraq as emblematic of an international system in dire need of repair.
“Some people in this chamber may regard [the Ukraine crisis] as nothing more than a regional conflict. But I am convinced…this conflict affects each and every one of us. Not just any State, but a permanent member of the Security Council, Russia, has annexed Crimea, unilaterally changing the borders of Europe and thus broken international law,” said Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany.
He urged efforts to counter “this dangerous signal” because the United Nations must not allow international law to be eroded from the inside. “We must not allow the old division between East and West to re-emerge in the United Nations,” he added, emphasizing that much is at stake, note only for the future of Ukraine, but for the future of international law.
An answer must be found which ushers in a lasting ceasefire and political solution based on the principles of the UN, Mr. Steinmeier continued, for as long as the conflict simmers, the dispute between Russia and the West threatens to paralyze the United Nations. “We need a Security Council that is able and willing to act in order to tackle new and, in the long term, tasks we are facing. For the world in 2014 is plagued not only be the old ghost of division, but also by new demons.”
He, next drew attention to the “unspeakable brutality” of those terrorists “misusing the name of God in carrying out their evil deeds…and drawing in young people who have grown up in the midst of our own societies.” That is why this too is not a regional conflict, or a challenge only for Iraq, Syria and Africa. “Our response must go much further than the immediate necessity of humanitarian and military responses. Germany was making substantial contributions to both, but also seeking political alliances against groups like theIslamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Turning to other issues, he said the international community also must tackle the “huge tasks” of the twenty-first century, namely the fight against climate change, privacy in the digital age, and the post-2015 development agenda. His country, for its part, has shifted towards using renewable energies. Germany has also taken initiative on the issue of digital privacy by introducing a resolution on the right to privacy in the digital age. The UN, he emphasized, was “worth every effort”, for in it lived the world’s hope for peace and a legal order.
In his address , Sebastian Kurz, Federal Minister for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs of Austria said it was unacceptable that international law had been breached in Ukraine and that established borders had been challenged in Europe once again. “A ceasefire will not be enough; a lasting political solution resulting in a free, stable and united Ukraine is needed. There must not be a return to a divisive, cold-war mentality.”
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