All Member States must respect the UN Charter - UN General Assembly president

  • 2024-07-06
  • LETA/TBT Staff

RIGA - All UN member states, including Russia, must respect the UN Charter, stressed Dennis Francis (Trinidad and Tobago), diplomat and President of the 78th session of the UN General Assembly, who met with Latvian Foreign Minister Baiba Braze (New Unity) at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Friday.

He said that he had arrived in Latvia after a visit to Ukraine. According to Francis, it was important to visit Latvia while in the region, given the strong ties between the UN and Latvia and the fact that Latvia is a reliable partner of the UN. The President of the 78th Session of the UN General Assembly underlined that Latvia plays an important role in the various intergovernmental processes taking place at UN Headquarters in New York.

"These are difficult times. The war of aggression launched by Russia against the people of Ukraine is ongoing. The most worrying thing is that there is no quick change or solution. Peace and security issues are therefore back at the heart of the UN's work. People probably do not realize that peace and security are only one third of the UN's work. There are two other pillars - human rights and sustainable development," Francis told reporters.

All these pillars are equally important, he said, and work is being done on them, but there is a feeling that more needs to be done and a recommitment to the fundamental principles of the UN Charter. The President of the 78th Session of the UN General Assembly pointed out that it is a rules-based system - by becoming a UN Member State, one takes an oath to respect and uphold the principles of the UN Charter and this, in his view, should matter.

"You cannot break the rules and expect there to be no consequences. If everyone started breaking the rules, there would be no UN. The premise of the UN is that every member state has to respect the UN Charter and Russia should do the same. I know that Latvia and other countries in the region, such as Poland, have paid a heavy price because of Russia's aggression in Ukraine. You have opened your doors and your hearts to many people from Ukraine. You have provided humanitarian aid and support to people you do not know. I would like to commend Latvia, its people and its government for their work," said Francis.

He stressed that while hostilities are ongoing in Ukraine, it is not clear what will happen in the future and what the situation might be in another country. For the President of the 78th session of the UN General Assembly, there is no better word to describe all this. He believes that this is the magic of multilateralism, because there is a common goal: to help those in need, to strengthen the weak and to give hope that tomorrow can and will be better.

"What I have seen in Latvia and other countries shows that the Latvian society is fully engaged in supporting and caring for the people of Ukraine. It is likely to be a long road. That is why we need to commit to the long term. It takes a great determination to fight for our values. It is these principles and values that define what the UN and the UN General Assembly do," stressed Francis.

He stressed that the UN General Assembly, during the "paralysis of the UN Security Council", clearly understood that it cannot sit back and allow Russian aggression in Ukraine to continue as if it were normal. The UN General Assembly has convened emergency meetings on Ukraine. Francis also mentioned the veto initiative, which requires a violating country - a permanent member of the UN Security Council - to explain its actions to the UN General Assembly. He mentioned that there should also be a condition of accountability.

"This has created quite a lot of transparency [...], but there is a risk that it becomes routine: a resolution goes to the UN Security Council, it is not approved because a country uses its veto, then the offending country explains what happened to the UN General Assembly and everyone goes home. I have asked for clarification on whether there are any other instruments to consider to change the veto mechanism, because this is too important to simply ignore," said the President of the 78th session of the UN General Assembly.

He stressed that during his visit to Ukraine he saw a country determined to succeed, a country with great pride and confidence in its future. Francis stressed that Ukraine deserves the support of the international community and that the issue of the war in Ukraine will therefore remain high on the agenda of the UN General Assembly until it is resolved and the war is over.

Latvian Foreign Minister Braze stressed that the UN is of utmost importance to Latvia. She pointed out that Latvia joined the organization in 1991 after the restoration of independence. It was an important day when the flags of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia were hoisted on the flagpole among many other flags, fully integrating into the international community with the restoration of sovereignty.

She stressed that the first works were related to the withdrawal of the Russian army from the territory of Latvia. Braze called on to remember the time when Latvia had an army of a foreign country on its territory. With the help of UN General Assembly resolutions, consensus, the support of the international community and the involvement of the UN Secretary-General, the rapporteurs together managed to ensure that three years later the Russian army withdrew from Latvia. On August 31, it will be 30 years since Latvia ceased to have a foreign army on its territory.

Braze pointed out that work with the UN has continued year after year. Currently, the work is focused not only on Latvia's absolute priority, which is security, the restoration of Ukraine's full territorial integrity and sovereignty, ending Russia's aggression against Ukraine, restoring the implementation of the principles of the UN Charter, but also on working on issues that are relevant to other countries and regions. ''We are talking about the consequences of climate change, for example, the extremely violent storms and hurricanes in the Caribbean, the changes in the Lake Chad region, which have led to famine, mass displacement of people, conflicts,'' the Minister stressed. These are also issues that relate to other countries' challenges and practical problems to be solved, such as insufficient food and water leading to migration and other difficulties affecting the whole world.

The Latvian Foreign Minister stressed that Francis has been an effective head of the UN General Assembly, ensuring that when the UN Security Council is unable, for example, to take a decision because a country has exercised its veto, the issue is quickly taken up in the UN General Assembly, where all Member States can express their views. This has not only been the case in matters relating to Ukraine.

"For Latvia, the UN is, will be and will remain an important organization, as a proof of our sovereignty. However, as an active member state, we intend to contribute to further UN reform, hoping to work actively in the UN Security Council [if Latvia is elected as a non-permanent member], representing all member states and ensuring respect for international law and the principles of the UN Charter," Braze said.

On Friday, Francis also met with Prime Minister Evika Silina (New Unity). During the meeting, the Prime Minister confirmed that Latvia is ready to invest in international peace, development and resilience.

"Latvia, as a small country, cannot be passive or silent in international relations. We are aware of the importance of sustainable development, the fight against climate change and the defense of human rights, which are also very much in line with the priorities of the Latvian Government," said Silina.

The Prime Minister also stressed that Latvia has "a lot of reform experience" and can share its knowledge with other countries, especially in areas such as digital solutions and women's rights.

The Prime Minister also expressed interest in continuing bilateral dialogue and cooperation with Trinidad and Tobago, including in areas such as tourism, higher education and digital solutions.