Security Council Briefing: Ukraine and MH17

Statement by His Excellency Mr. Stef Blok,
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands

New York, 29 May 2018

Mr President,

Thank you for convening this meeting today.

And thank you also to our three excellent briefers. Their informative presentations highlight the ongoing need for international involvement, even four years since the start of the conflict. In recent weeks, we’ve seen a surge in violence, with new casualties as a result.

That’s why, Mr President, I’m so grateful for your timely efforts to spotlight the situation in eastern Ukraine again today. This conflict must not be allowed to persist.

Four years of fighting in Donbass has inflicted a heavy toll, on many parties.

Firstly, on the people of Ukraine. In four years, more than ten thousand lives have been lost. Many innocent civilians have had their daily lives disrupted; some lost their homes or became displaced. In parts of Donetsk and Luhansk, civilian infrastructure has been seriously damaged. The power and water supplies are insecure. Unexploded ordnance and mines are a daily threat.

Secondly, a toll is being taken on the young Ukrainian democracy. We admire the steps taken by the current Ukrainian government towards reform, as well as the positive role played by Ukraine’s vibrant civil society. But the conflict has put pressure on this young democracy and its economy. We call on the government to continue its reforms, and we will continue to support the Ukrainian government in its efforts. Bilaterally, through the EU, and in other international institutions.

Thirdly, as I said in this same room two weeks ago: this conflict is taking a toll on the international legal order. In Ukraine, we find that our international rulebook is in jeopardy. The illegal annexation of Crimea, and the active, destabilising role of Russia in Donbass go directly against article 2, paragraph 4 of the Charter: the prohibition of the use of force against the territorial integrity and political independence of any state. Like others, I therefore reiterate our strong commitment to the sovereignty, political independence, unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine.

Mr President,

As you are well aware, it is not only the people of Ukraine who have been affected by the conflict.

On 17 July 2014, two hundred and ninety-eight innocent people from 17 different countries were dragged into this conflict – and lost their lives. On that fateful day, a Malaysia Airlines civilian airliner travelling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down over eastern Ukraine, from a location controlled by Russian-backed separatists.

A hundred ninety-six of those victims were citizens of the Netherlands – men, women and children from my country.

The Security Council responded immediately, with the unanimous adoption of resolution 2166, proposed by Australia, which was one of the countries most affected.

I also want to remind you that our efforts to establish an international tribunal under Chapter 7, through this Council, were blocked by a Russian veto.

My government announced that it would not rest before the truth was established and justice was achieved - together with its international partners. Years of painstaking, independent international investigations followed.

As a result, it has now been established that the missile that downed flight MH17 was launched by a Buk TELAR that came from the Russian Army.

This conclusion was not taken lightly. It is the result of intensive, in-depth study and analysis.

Last Thursday, the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) released additional findings – based on legally sound and compelling evidence – that the Buk missile system which downed MH17 belonged to the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade of the Russian Army.

On that basis, and motivated by our desire to establish the truth and achieve justice and accountability, Australia and the Netherlands announced last Friday that we hold the Russian Federation accountable for its part in the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.

As a consequence, the Netherlands and Australia now call on the Russian Federation to engage seriously and constructively with us in this matter and accept its responsibility.

Along with this, the Russian Federation needs to start cooperating fully with the JIT’s ongoing criminal investigation.

Mr President,

This request is nothing new.

Indeed, it’s a clear demand contained in resolution 2166, here in front of me, unanimously adopted by this Council almost four years ago.

By voting for this resolution, all fifteen members of this Council, including the Russian Federation, voted for justice. They voted for ‘those responsible […] to be held to account’, and for ‘all States to cooperate fully with efforts to establish accountability’.

Unfortunately, four years later, these demands need to be repeated.

Today, I re-iterate them again, supported by masses of irrefutable evidence.

Mr President,

When it comes to establishing truth and accountability for what happened to MH17, no State has ‘the right to remain silent’. Quite the contrary: it has a duty to cooperate constructively. To shed light on the truth, not to obscure it with continuous mist.

I call on the Russian Federation to take this responsibility.

For our part, we have kept the Council informed of our efforts and findings on a regular basis, and will continue to do so. We are grateful for the broad support that we have had throughout from the vast majority of the international community. Including from Australia, the UN Secretary-General, the NATO Secretary-General, all our European partners, and countries like Canada, New Zealand, Ukraine, Malaysia and the United States.

In closing, the downing of flight MH17 is a stark reminder of how an armed conflict in one part of the world can impact any of us, at any time. This is another reason why the international community cannot allow this conflict to persist.

After four years of devastation, Ukraine deserves peace. Lasting peace, on the basis of the Minsk Agreements, supported by all of its neighbours, and in accordance with international law.

So too, do the victims of flight MH17 deserve justice.

Thank you.

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