General Assembly Adopts Texts Urging Troop Withdraw from Republic of Moldova, Strengthening Cooperation in Central Asia
The General Assembly today adopted two resolutions, the first of which urged the Russian Federation to unconditionally withdraw its troops and armaments without delay from the territory of the Republic of Moldova.
Introducing the draft text on “Complete and unconditional withdrawal of foreign military forces from the territory of the Republic of Moldova” (document A/72/L.58), that country’s Foreign Minister noted that the Operational Group of Russian Forces were stationed in his country without its consent. The principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity were at stake, he noted, underscoring that the proposed resolution was in no way a bid for confrontation, nor was it intended to politicize the issue.
Before the resolution was put to a vote, the representative of the Russian Federation proposed that consideration of the draft should be postponed through a no-action motion. He noted that the text had not been the result of preliminary consultations and that process meant it was not amenable to consensus building. He emphasized that the Republic of Moldova itself was divided on the issue at hand, and for that reason the vote should be delayed, allowing for the opportunity to further work on the draft. The no-action motion was not adopted.
By the terms of the text, the Assembly expressed its deep concern about the continued stationing of the Operational Group of Russian Forces on the territory of the Republic of Moldova without the consent of that State or of the United Nations. It also urged the Russian Federation to complete, unconditionally and without further delay, the orderly withdrawal of the Operational Group.
Also by the resolution, the Assembly noted with appreciation the efforts made by the States participating in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which were aimed at facilitating the completion of the withdrawal process of the Russian military forces. It also emphasized the commitment by the Russian Federation to complete that withdrawal within a specific timetable, as agreed at the 1999 Istanbul Summit.
The General Assembly also approved the draft resolution “Strengthening regional and international cooperation to ensure peace, stability and sustainable development in the Central Asian Region” (document A/72/L.61).
Introducing the draft text, the representative of Uzbekistan said that its main purpose was to gain the support of the international community in the efforts of Central Asian States to foster closer collaborations in order to ensure peace and stability in the region. He also emphasized their shared spiritual and cultural heritage.
By the texts’ terms, the Assembly expressed its support for the ongoing regional efforts to strengthen economic cooperation and stability in Central Asia, and encouraged their efforts to promote peace and development in Afghanistan.
By the resolution, it also noted the importance of developing and strengthening bilateral and regional cooperation in the sphere of the rational and integrated use of water and energy resources in Central Asia, and called upon Member States to support Central Asian nations in their efforts to mitigate the consequences of the drying up of the Aral Sea.
Welcoming the adoption, the representative of Kazakhstan said that a prosperous Central Asia was beneficial to all nations, not just those in the region.
Also speaking were representatives of Ukraine, Myanmar, Belarus, Syria, Viet Nam, Iran, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, as well as a representative of the European Union.
TUDOR ULIANOVSCHI, Minister for Foreign Affairs and European Integration of the Republic of Moldova, introduced the draft resolution titled “Complete and unconditional withdrawal of foreign military forces from the territory of the Republic of Moldova” (document A/72/L.58), noting that it focused on a pressing legal and political issue against the backdrop of a protracted, externally-generated conflict in the eastern part of his country. The resolution addressed the fact that the Operational Group of Russian Forces and its armaments were still stationed in Moldova without its consent. That was incompatible with its independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as the rules of international law and the Charter of the United Nations.
The proposed draft resolution reaffirmed the need for all States to adhere to the principles of the Charter and recognize that the presence of the Russian military forces without Moldova’s consent was a problem that must be resolved in good faith, unconditionally, without further delay and in a peaceful manner, he said. The obfuscated claim that the Forces’ presence on Moldovan soil was legal in terms of the 1992 Moldova-Russia ceasefire agreement was a distortion of the content of that document. Further, as a signatory of the 1999 Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Istanbul Summit Declaration, the Russian Federation legally committed itself to a complete withdrawal of its troops and armaments by the end of 2002. He noted that by bringing the matter before the General Assembly he did not seek confrontation or politicization. Rather, it was a matter of high principle and importance for every United Nations Member State to fully exercise its legitimate rights and authority on its own territory. He hoped that the initiative would enjoy the same support as similar General Assembly resolutions adopted in 1992 and 1993 that contributed to the withdrawal of foreign military forces from the territories of the Baltic States.
The representative of the Russian Federation proposed that consideration of the draft resolution be postponed through a no-action motion as set forth in Rule 74 of the General Assembly’s rules of procedure. His delegation was not shying away from discussing the Transnistria issue, and it was committed to a political solution through the “5+2” process, to which there was no alternative. It was vital to support a trust-based dialogue, mutual respect and a constructive outlook, he said, adding that recently there had been more grounds for optimism. The draft resolution therefore came as a surprise, with no preliminary consultations. Such odd working methods did not permit consensus, and consideration of the text would be untimely and counter-productive.
He said the Assembly had just heard an emotionally charged statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Moldova that failed to mention that on 19 June, the President of that country had sharply criticized the initiative to take the text to the Assembly. It was clear that the Republic of Moldova was divided, and getting involved in such squabbles would not strengthen the Assembly’s authority. Moreover, the text would have a negative impact on the ongoing political process. Emphasizing that there had been no recent emergencies that would require taking the Transnistria issue to the United Nations, he said it would be better to postpone action until the next Assembly session, thus enabling work on a consensus that would include the Republic of Moldova. Delegations which voted for the no-action motion would not stifle the draft text, but create an opportunity to work on it properly.
The representative of Ukraine said that the motion introduced by the representative of the Russian Federation sought to prevent the Assembly from fulfilling its mandate under the Charter of the United Nations. Today’s draft resolution was about respect for the Charter. The Russian Federation was not honouring its international commitments and its refusal to withdraw its troops was a violation of international law.
The representative of Myanmar said he believed that engagement and consultations were important, and as such he supported the Russian Federation representative’s proposal to adjourn the item until the next session of the Assembly.
The representative of the Republic of Moldova said that he strongly objected to the proposal of the Russian Federation to adjourn the debate on the draft resolution under Rule 74 of the rules of procedure. The attempt to prevent consideration of the draft resolution on procedural grounds ran contrary to the good practice of the Assembly.
The representative of Belarus said that he supported the proposal to not consider the draft resolution at the Assembly. The document was given to the Secretariat without the necessary time for discussion, and there were no formal consultations with representatives of States on the text itself. That hindered transparency, he said.
The Russian Federation’s motion was not adopted. There were 24 votes in favour of the motion to 80 against, with 48 abstentions.
The representative of the Russian Federation, in an explanation of vote before the vote, said he regretted that the no-action motion had not been supported, but it was important to clearly understand the nature of the issue before the Assembly today. He added that under the United Nations Charter and the rules of procedure, decisions on important issues required either a two thirds majority or a simple majority, and requested clarification on that point.
The representative of Syria said he would vote against. Given the historical and geopolitical realties of the issue, the best way forward would be through bilateral negotiations between the Republic of Moldova and the Russian Federation within the OSCE framework. He added that relations between the two countries had been on the right track since they signed a cooperation treaty in 2001. The draft resolution would not improve relations and it would jeopardize the OSCE framework.
The representative of the Russian Federation, noting that he had spoken earlier on procedural issues, said his country remained fully committed to negotiations leading to a political solution in Transnistria. The draft resolution, if adopted, would break from the OSCE approach and other efforts in that regard. It would also damage the Assembly’s reputation, he said, calling on all responsible delegations to vote against.
The Vice-President of the Assembly said that, in the absence of any objections, a simple majority of Member States present would be required to the adoption of “L.58”.
The Assembly then adopted the resolution by a vote of 64 in favour to 15 against, with 83 abstentions.
The representative of Viet Nam, speaking in explanation after the vote, said he abstained because he supported the principles stated in the draft resolution on the obligations of Member States to comply with international law. However, he regretted that there was no consultation on the draft resolution among Member States. If there had been, the draft would have been more balanced.
The representative of the Russian Federation said he regretted the outcome of the vote and that politicization of the problem had happened at a time of real progress. The Moldovan approach of bringing the issue to the Assembly would not allow more progress to be made. Serious damage had been done, and the predictable consequences of the vote would be related to the Assembly, which was called upon to bring people together and not to divide them.
The representative of Iran said that he hoped the issue under consideration would be resolved by peaceful means. But the Assembly was not the appropriate forum to address the issue before it today.
The representative of the European Union, speaking after adoption of the resolution, reaffirmed the bloc’s support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova within its internationally recognized borders. Highlighting the importance of completing the processes that began on the basis of commitments agreed at the 1999 Istanbul Summit, she recalled that respect for the Republic of Moldova’s neutrality was a key element contributing to efforts on the peaceful resolution of the Transnistria conflict.
She welcomed encouraging progress under the “5+2” process on the settlement of the Transnistria conflict, as well as the Protocol of the official meeting of the Permanent Conference for Political Questions in the Framework of the Negotiating Process on the Transnistrian Settlement, held in Rome on 29-30 May under the Italian Chairmanship of the OSCE. She went on to underline the importance of keeping a results-oriented process with a view to ensuring progress in negotiations and tangible benefits for the people.
The representative of the Republic of Moldova said the resolution reinforced his country’s resolve to continue efforts to ensure the complete and unconditional withdrawal of Russian forces from its territory, as well as its belief that its cause was just and legitimate. Through the text, the Assembly had reaffirmed that international law and the United Nations Charter should prevail in relations between States. Today was a great day for the people of the Republic of Moldova, who had regained trust that the international community was on their side. Hundreds of thousands of his compatriots had been watching a historic moment when, after 26 years, the Assembly had declared the Russian military presence to be illegal. The decision to support the resolution was not an easy one for many delegations, given the many unrelated factors aimed at sowing confusion, but that made today’s action more valuable and important, he said, adding that the resolution was just a small step in consistent endeavours to achieve its ultimate goal.
BAKHTIYOR IBRAGIMOV (Uzbekistan), also speaking on behalf of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, introduced the draft resolution titled “Strengthening regional and international cooperation to ensure peace, stability and sustainable development in the Central Asian region” (document A/72/L/61). The main purpose of the proposed resolution was to garner the international community’s support for Central Asian States’ efforts in forging closer regional collaboration to ensure peace, stability and sustainable development in the region.
Central Asian countries had great potential for cooperation and development, he said, noting their shared common spiritual and cultural-historical heritage. The countries of that region also had common transport and communication networks and economies that complemented one another. Central Asia could play an important role as a main interregional transport corridor connecting the East with the West.
The General Assembly then adopted the resolution.
The representative of Kyrgyzstan said that regarding the resolution, he was not against the holding of a summit, but he noted there was a need to reform the fund in order to fulfil the mandate.
The representative of the European Union said that he welcomed the approval of the resolution. Europe and the five countries of the Central Asian region were closer than ever, and the Union was eager to engage further. He welcomed all efforts that had helped Central Asia to develop as a peaceful, prosperous, and more closely connected economic and political space. He also noted that a new European Union strategy on Central Asia would be released in early 2019 that would aim to set a new level of ambition for engagement in the region.
The representative of Kazakhstan said it was important to show solidarity and the integration progress. The Central Asian countries were on the path to sustainable development, and a prosperous, stable Central Asia was beneficial to all nations.