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UN: Latvian President discussed the illegal Soviet annexation of the Baltic States

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Latvian President Raimonds Vejonis, the EU’s First Green President, discussed the illegal Soviet annexation of the Baltic States, stopping Russian aggression in Ukraine, and protecting the environment

Latvian President Vejonis who is expected to attend the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference which will take place on November 30 to December 11th in Paris, is a former Minister of the Environment.

The purpose of the conference is to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate change.

But before becoming President of Latvia in 2015, he was the Latvian Minister of Defense. Quite a diverse background, wouldn’t you say?

Consequently, after winning this year’s presidential election in Latvia, President Vejonis emphasized that when it comes to Sustainable Development Goals, ”Latvia has just adopted an ambitious development agenda for the next 15 years.” He stated that ”the Sustainable Development Goals must drive us to make changes, to end poverty, and build prosperity and equality for all. With well thought out, focused, and action-oriented policies, we can do it!” said the Latvian President in a statement made during the General Debate at UN Headquarters on September 30.

Find out what this dynamic young Latvian leader has to say on national security, too, keeping in mind that the Baltic country of Latvia, along with Estonia and Lithuania, were occupied by the Soviet Union for fifty years. No, they were not members of the United Nations when it was founded 70 years ago, but what these Baltic nations have accomplished following the restoration of independence, and joining the United Nations on September l7, l991 is rather remarkable.

Very thought-provoking, too, are the President’s remarks on Russian aggression against Ukraine, seeking justice for the victims of MH 17, the human rights situation of the indigenous Crimean Tatars, and what he calls “the horrific conflict in Syria.” Read on.

In celebrating the 70th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, from a Baltic perspective, perhaps one of the best statements made at UN Headquarters in New York in 2015 can be attributed to the President of the Republic of Latvia, Raimonds Vejonis.

Here’s what the Latvian President had to say during the 70th debate of the General Assembly recently: “As we celebrate70 years at the United Nations and 70 years since the end of the Second World War, It’s time for us all to take stock” he said.

He then went on to ask these questions: “What has been achieved? Where have we failed? What is there yet to do to create a safer and better world?”

“In July, we marked the 75th anniversary since the Summer Welles Declaration on the non- recognition policy of the illegal Soviet annexation of the Baltic States,” the Latvian President said. “This policy reflected the international law based principle that change of borders by force is not acceptable. The firm stance of the international community in support of this principle has been of great importance to us.”

As the Latvian President stated, “since its completion in San Francisco in 1945, the UN Charter embodies the core principles of the international system. However, far too often international order and principles have been violated and the UN has been unable to prevent conflicts or build peace or stop atrocities.”

President Vejonis, went on to discuss the role of the UN Security Council and the importance of moving forward. He stated: “Past failures must be lessons for the future. The UN, and in particular, the Security Council, must be able to implement the mission set by the Charter with a renewed sense of responsibility. It’s time to move forward with the UN Security Council reform.”

He added: “We applaud efforts to revive negotiations on this important issue. Latvia supports expansion of the Security Council in both categories of membership. At least one additional non-permanent seat should be ensured to the Eastern European Group of states.” The Latvian President made it clear that “early action of the UN in situations of concern is crucial.”

He said that “Latvia supports the proposal to voluntarily restrain the use of the veto at the Security Council in situations involving mass atrocity crimes “

He also stated that “on several crucial occasions in recent times the Security Council was not able to take timely and decisive action. It has had dire consequences.” Latvian President Vejonis mentioned in particular that “the Security Council was blocked from playing a role to stop Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and to seek justice for the victims of the flight MH17 in an international tribunal that could establish the truth on who shot down this civilian airplane.”

In situations involving mass atrocity crimes, Latvia supports a Code of Conduct for any member of the Council not to vote against any action designed to end and prevent mass atrocity crimes.
The Latvian President also elaborated on the important role that the Security Council plays at the United Nations: “Early action of the UN in situations of concern is crucial” he stated: “Latvia supports the proposal to voluntarily restrain the use of the veto.”

“On several crucial occasions in recent times, the Security Council was not able to take timely and decisive action” said President Vejonis. “It has had dire consequences”, he stated. “For example, the Security Council was blocked from playing a role to stop Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and to seek justice for the victims of the flight MH17 in an international tribunal that could establish the truth on who shot down this civilian airplane.”

He also said that “Russia must stop all forms of support to separatists and use its influence to make them adhere to the Minsk agreements.”

In his remarks, he emphasized “full implementation of the Minsk agreements by all parties. The conflict in eastern Ukraine has cost the lives of thousands,” he said. The Latvian President made it clear, too, that the UN General Assembly supported the territorial integrity of Ukraine, and that “the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol by Russia will not be recognized.”

“We are particularly concerned about the worsening social, economic, and human rights situation in Crimea, especially affecting Crimean Tatars and ethnic Ukrainians,” the Latvian President said. “Together with the rest of the international community, Latvia will continue to support Ukraine’s reform process in order to strengthen democracy, the economy, and good governance.” he added.

On the subject of Syria, here’s what the Latvian President stated: “The horrific conflict in Syria has entered its fifth year. It has created a humanitarian catastrophe and destabilized the whole region. The international community must not abandon the people of Syria, and must push for a political settlement. Those responsible for the internationally prohibited use of chemical weapons in Syria must be identified and held accountable.” In the Latvian President’s opinion, “the conflict and fragility of Syria and Iraq have contributed to the rise of ISIL/Daesh and the violent extremism spreading globally.”

The Latvian President also said that “it is commendable that, despite all the existing challenges, the Government of Afghanistan has shown its commitment to the democratic process, and that “sustainable peace and stability in the country can be achieved only with continued strong commitment from the Afghan side and further international support. “He made it clear, too, that the resolution of protracted conflicts in Transnistria, Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagorno-Karabakh should remain on the international agenda.

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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