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The President of Latvia, Raimonds Vejonis, addressed the illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia, and Latvia’s 25th anniversary since restoring independence at the UN

Shown here is Raimonds Vejonis, President of the Republic of Latvia, addressing the general debate in the General Assembly at UN Headquarters in New York. The Latvian President discussed several different issues such as achieving Sustainable Development Goals. movements of refugees and migrants, and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. UN Photo/Amanda Voisard.

As the President of the Republic of Latvia, Raimonds Vejonis, pointed out in his speech during the 7lst session of the UN General Assembly on September 21, “it is still a very turbulent time in Europe’s security landscape.”

In the statements that follows, the Latvian President explained his country’s viewpoints on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, the illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia, and the resolution of protracted conflicts. Here’s what the President had to say in his own words: In his opening remarks, he mentioned in particular, that” during these days, Latvia marks twenty-five years since regaining independence and joining the United Nations.” He said, “Latvia took its rightful place in the United Nations in 1991 with a clear objective of collective contribution to security, stability, and prosperity in the world.” (The three Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania joined the United Nations on September 17, 1991.)

The President added that “as a responsible democratic state, based on the rule of law and respect for human dignity and freedom, Latvia remains strongly committed to the essential work of the United Nat Latvian President Raimonds Vejonis, covered a wide variety of issues in his address, including the Middle East, Afghanistan, the neighboring countries of Central Asia, and Mali., where Latvia is involved in its first-ever UN peacekeeping operation in the country.   However, the issue of Security Council reform is a priority for the Latvian President, as evidenced by the statement that follows: “The United Nations ‘capacity to address the current challenges also depends on the political will to move forward on Security Council reform”, said the President. “This is long overdue and we should all aim for strengthening the legitimacy of this important body” he added, and that “for Security Council to react accordingly, its members should restrain from using their veto in situations of atrocity crimes. “Latvia supports this important initiative, as well as the Code of Conduct regarding Security Council action against genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes.”  To Latvia, the United Nations has been and will be our platform for global engagement.” said the President.

“For Latvia, the stability and security of Europe’s neighbors in the East is a strategic priority and remains high on the political agenda,” said the President.  “Resolution of protracted conflicts in Transnistria, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Nagorno- Kababakh should remain high on the international agenda. We must remain vigilant and insist that all States abide by their obligations under international law” he added.

Concerning Russia, the President stated: “Russia has undermined the foundations of international law by changing borders of sovereign States through the use of force.  Latvia together with the international community will continue to stand for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. The illegal annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation will not be recognized and must end.”

He also pointed out that “any discrimination against the Crimean Tatars and ethnic Ukrainians in Crimea requires a firm UN reaction. The international community must work to facilitate the peaceful resolution of the conflict in eastern Ukraine. All parties must fulfill their commitments under the Minsk Agreements and make the Minsk process work. Latvia continues to support Ukraine in its reform process and its humanitarian needs.”

When it comes to issues such as climate change, the Latvian President, a well-known environmentalist, stated that “we are determined to keep the political momentum for climate action.”  He said that “in April, Latvia signed the historic Climate Agreement. We will strive to ratify the Agreement as soon as possible and we encourage others to do likewise. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has been driving the push for worldwide action on climate change and gender equality. Latvia is grateful to him for his leadership and dedication over the past decade” he said.

Latvian President Vejonis also stated that “the scope of challenges that the world faces is daunting and the bold global agenda requires leadership.   As he said, “the expectations for the next Secretary-of this Organization are as high as ever.  This important job requires courage and readiness to effectively tackle the issues. While we are looking for the best qualified candidate, we also recall that Eastern Europe is the only region that has not held the post of Secretary-General. He added that “I am equally convinced that after70 years, it is time to choose a woman for the United Nations’ top job.”

(Note: Although the next Secretary-General of the United Nations will be Portugal’s Antonio Guterres, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania can take pride in the fact that it was the former Latvian President, Vaira Vike-Freiberga, who represented the three Baltic States in 2005, was a formal candidate for the post of UN Secretary-General in the election won by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.  Vaira Vike-Freiberga had been appointed a Special Envoy on UN Reform by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.)

In summarizing the important issues debated by the Latvian President, he mentioned “the rise of large movements of refugees and migrants and stated that“ 125 million people around the world desperately need humanitarian assistance.“ The President of Latvia said “the current migration crisis cannot be addressed by the most affected countries alone.  It would require joint efforts and shared responsibility.”

As stated by the Latvian President, “ While military and security measures were necessary to combat Da’esh and similar groups, we need to address the root causes which turn people to violent extremism. Furthemore, we need to think of novel ways on how to prevent extremism and radicalization in well-off societies where we have witnessed the spread of these threats.”

The Latvian President also said that “Latvia is a part of the Global Coalition against Da’esh, which has Been Instrumental in combatting this group in Iraq and Syria. We welcome the NATO decision to step up support of the efforts of the Coalition. Only unified, coordinated. collective action at global, regional and national levels, will be able to confront these unconventional threats. “

Ann Charles
Ann Charles is UN Bureau Chief of "Baltic Review" based in New York City. She covers diplomatic activities at United Nations Headquarters in New York and the world body's work in human rights, education, culture, the environment, and tourism, among other global concerns.

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