Security Council Rejects Text to Investigate Complaint Concerning Non-Compliance of Biological Weapons Convention by Ukraine, United States
Abstaining Delegation Says Allegations by Russian Federation Lacked Evidence
The Security Council today failed to adopt a resolution put forth by the Russian Federation to set up a commission consisting of all members of the Council to investigate its complaint about the non-compliance by the United States and Ukraine with their obligations under the Biological Weapons Convention.
The draft resolution only received support from one other Council Member — China — with France, the United States and the United Kingdom voting against it, and the 10 remaining Council members abstaining from voting.
Through the draft resolution, the 15-member Council would have decided to set up a commission to investigate the complaint of the Russian Federation in the context of the activities of biological laboratories in the territory of Ukraine, as well as present to the 15-member organ a report on the issue containing recommendations by 30 November 2022 and inform the States parties to the Convention at its Ninth Review Conference to be held in Geneva on 28 November–16 December 2022 of the results of the investigation.
The draft would also have the Council request the Secretary-General and the Biological Weapons Convention Implementation Support Unit provide, within their respective mandates, all necessary assistance to the commission.
By other terms, the draft would have the Council recall that, under article VI of the Convention, its States parties cooperate in carrying out any investigation which the organ may initiate, in accordance with the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations, on the basis of the complaint received by the Council.
Speaking before the vote, the representative of the Russian Federation said the vote represented “a considerable milestone” for the Security Council. Since his country set out its position on the issue before the Council on 27 October, two rounds of expert consultation took place on the draft, which prompted some Council Members to reach “unilateral conclusions”, he said, adding that he expected that the vote will reflect respect for international law and the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, and hoped for support from Council members who do not fear angering Washington, D.C., and its satellites.
Following the vote, the representative of the Russian Federation voiced disappointment that the Council did not manage to activate the mechanism provided for under article VI of the Biological Weapons Convention. Regardless of the outcome of today’s vote, his delegation will continue to make all efforts to establish all facts related to the non-compliance by the United States and Ukraine with the Convention, in the context of the activities of the biological laboratories in Ukrainian territory.
The delegate of the United States agreed with the representative of the Russian Federation that the meeting marked a milestone, stressing: “It is a milestone, for the Russian Federation’s deception and lies.” Recalling that during a consultative meeting under article V of the Biological Weapons Convention in September in Geneva her country and Ukraine went through the Russian Federation’s allegations “point by point and debunked every single one”, she added: “When they failed in Geneva, they raised their false claims here, abusing its position and abusing us.”
Echoing such points, the representative of the United Kingdom said her country voted against the resolution to protect the integrity of the Convention and prevent it from being undermined by unfounded accusations. The Russian Federation’s allegations have no credible basis in fact and its long-standing disinformation efforts undermine peaceful biological cooperation under article X, she said, urging the Council to defend peaceful biological cooperation against unfounded malicious allegations.
France’s delegate said his country also voted against the draft, having evaluated the so-called evidence in detail and concluding that the allegations are unfounded. “If words are stripped of their meaning, and if truth and lies are considered on an equal footing, diplomacy is no longer possible,” he stressed.
The representative of Mexico stated that his country had abstained because the provisions of article VI of the Convention had not been fulfilled. Recalling that the party alleging such violations needs to provide evidence to activate the next step, he pointed out that the Russian Federation has not done so either in the debate or in the consultation process for the draft resolution.
Meanwhile, the representative of China said that he voted in favour of the draft as questions put forth by the Russian Federation about biological activities taking place in Ukraine during a formal consultative meeting in September were not answered.
Also speaking today were representatives of India, Ireland, Albania, Norway, Kenya, Brazil, United Arab Emirates and Ghana.
The meeting began at 4:48 p.m. and ended at 5:30 p.m.
Statements before Vote
DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation) said the imminent vote represents “a considerable milestone” for the Security Council. Recalling his country’s position on the issue, as set out on 27 October in the Council, he stated that subsequent to that meeting, two rounds of expert consultations had taken place on the draft. However, during that time, “old talking points” were aired about the Russian Federation, and the evidence it put forth was said to not merit further consideration. He stated that certain Council members reached unilateral conclusions, replacing a decision to be taken by the 15-member organ with their “biased national assessments”. He went on to state that he expected that the forthcoming vote will reflect respect for international law and the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention and hoped for support from Council members who do not fear angering Washington, D.C., and its satellites.
The Council then failed to adopt the text, as it did not obtain the required number of votes. It received 2 votes in favour (Russian Federation, China) to 3 against (United States, France, United Kingdom), and 10 abstentions.
Mr. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation) voiced disappointment that the Council did not manage to activate the mechanism provided for under article VI of the Biological Weapons Convention. Quoting its provisions, he said that, during work on the draft resolution, Western countries demonstrated in every way that the law does not apply to them. Regardless of the outcome of today’s vote, his delegation retains its questions to the United States and Ukraine, he said, adding that the evidence in his country’s complaint still require clarification. The Russian Federation will continue to act within the framework of the Biological Weapons Convention and make all efforts to establish all facts related to the non-compliance by the United States and Ukraine with the Convention, in the context of the activities of the biological laboratories in Ukrainian territory. Any violators will be held accountable by the international community. The Russian Federation will unfailingly work on further strengthening the Convention’s regime, including at the Ninth Review Conference to be held in Geneva from 28 November to 16 December.
JUAN GÓMEZ ROBLEDO VERDUZCO (Mexico) stated that his country had abstained because the provisions of article VI of the Biological Weapons Convention have not been fulfilled. Recalling that the party alleging such violations needs to provide evidence to activate the next step, he pointed out that this has not happened either in the debate or in the consultation process for this draft resolution. He further noted that it is not realistic to believe that a commission can be set up as proposed and can present a report with recommendations to the Council in a period of 28 days. Nevertheless, he highlighted that the forthcoming review conference of the Convention is an ideal forum to consider the comments made by the Russian Federation.
LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States) said she voted against the draft, as “it is based on disinformation, dishonesty, bad faith and a total lack of respect to this body”. Underscoring the importance of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, she said her country takes its responsibilities as a State party seriously and fulfils its obligations accordingly, assisting partners in strengthening health security and reducing the impact of infectious disease, adding: “Such cooperation must not be stigmatized.” During the consultative meeting held on article V in Geneva, the Russian Federation failed to present evidence to support its false allegations, she said. Despite that country’s abuse of the process, her country and Ukraine went through the Russian Federation’s allegations “point by point and debunked every single one”. Therefore, she continued, this meeting is a milestone, as the Russian Federation’s delegate said, adding: “It is a milestone for the Russian Federation’s deception and lies.” She went on, stating: “When they failed in Geneva, they raised their false claims here, abusing its position and abusing us.” Instead of focusing on such claims, the Council should focus on the truth and the horrors inflicted by the Russian Federation on the Ukrainian people, she stressed.
AMARNATH ASOKAN (India) said that any matter relating to the obligations under the Biological Weapons Convention should be addressed as per the Convention and through consultations and cooperation between the relevant parties. He underscored the need to negotiate a comprehensive legally binding protocol providing for an effective, universal and non-discriminatory verification mechanism. This is necessary to strengthen the Convention and its implementation by States parties, he said, voicing hope that the current situation will provide the impetus for early consideration, negotiation and finalization of such a protocol by the States parties. Factoring these various aspects, India decided to abstain from voting on the resolution, he said.
CAÍT MORAN (Ireland) stressed that no substantive or credible evidence has been presented by the Russian Federation to support its allegations, either through the article V consultative meeting in Geneva in September or in the materials submitted to the Council. She added that her country had abstained because it does not see the proposed investigation by the Council as either justifiable or useful. Noting that Moscow is attempting to misuse the Convention and the Council as a platform for its disinformation to justify its unjustifiable and unlawful invasion of Ukraine, she asked to stop these deeply cynical and harmful actions that risk undermining key multilateral arms control agreements as well as international cooperation into vital health research.
FERIT HOXHA (Albania) said he abstained from voting on the draft as the claims put forth by the Russian Federation are unsubstantiated and uncorroborated; that country has failed to provide credible evidence to support the need for an article VI investigation. He called on the Russian Federation to end its aggression on Ukraine and bring its troops home, “instead of misusing the Council and polluting its work with disinformation and fantasies”.
TRINE SKARBOEVIK HEIMERBACK (Norway) said her country abstained from voting as it does not wish to set a negative precedent in the use of article VI of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. Norway has meticulously reviewed the documents annexed to the Russian complaint under article VI of the Convention, which consist predominantly of assertions, interpretations and conclusions by the Russian Federation itself. Recalling that the same accusations were dealt with in September during the formal article V consultations, she said the Russian Federation has failed to demonstrate probable cause for further investigative steps. Emphasizing that it is “deeply problematic that the State that has lodged the complaint with the Security Council itself has ‘taken the pen’ and submitted the resolution that addresses the complaint”, she called on the Russian Federation to end its “relentless campaign of disinformation and stop congesting the Council’s agenda with patently unfounded requests related to the situation in Ukraine”.
BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom) said her country voted against the resolution to protect the integrity of the Convention and prevent it from being undermined by unfounded accusations. Pointing to the Russian Federation’s false allegations of biological activities, she recalled that Ukraine and the United States provided a comprehensive response in September. The Russian Federation’s allegations have no credible basis in fact and its long-standing disinformation efforts undermine peaceful biological cooperation under article X, she stressed, urging the Council to defend peaceful biological cooperation against unfounded malicious allegations.
MICHAEL KAPKIAI KIBOINO (Kenya) stressed that any actions which may undermine the Convention, especially in a world grappling with the effects of a pandemic, should be avoided, pointing to the importance of respecting existing conventions and norms that ensure international cooperation remains unimpeded. He noted that any credible allegations of the use of weapons of mass destruction should be treated with the seriousness they deserve.
GENG SHUANG (China) said he voted in favour of the draft as threats to biosecurity know no borders. Recalling that the Russian Federation has been raising its allegations in the Council since March about the biological activities taking place in Ukraine, he said that any concerns about compliance with the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention deserve thorough and to-the-point clarifications by the parties concerned. Although a formal consultative meeting was held to resolve such issues in September, he said, regrettably, a set of questions put forth by the Russian Federation were not answered. Therefore, the Russian Federation submitted its allegations to the Council, which was reasonable, legitimate and should not be blocked. A fair and transparent investigation can address compliance concerns and help uphold the authority of the Convention.
JOÃO GENÉSIO DE ALMEIDA FILHO (Brazil), noting his country’s consideration of documents made available by the Russian Federation and the discussions in Geneva, said that currently the necessary conditions for the initiation of an investigation under article VI of the Convention have not been met. Brazil is committed to the resumption of negotiations towards adoption of a binding verification protocol that strengthens implementation of the Biological Weapons Conventions regarding the exclusive peaceful use of knowledge and technologies in the field of life sciences. The situation in the Council today only reinforces the necessity of establishing such a mechanism, he pointed out, noting that the next review conference presents an opportunity for Council members to re-engage in such discussions without delay. While such a protocol is not adopted, States parties must strengthen the mechanisms of transparency and confidence-building available under the framework of the Convention by sharing the broadest range of information regarding research projects on topics related to the Convention.
MOHAMED ISSA ABUSHAHAB (United Arab Emirates) stated that since article VI of the Convention has never been applied, the Council should be prudent and deliberate when establishing new precedents. He pointed out that there should be a broad agreement among Council members on the triggers and modalities to proceed with article VI. Given the lack of such an agreement on the draft resolution presented today, he noted that his country chose to abstain.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) said the results of the vote are “unassailable”, demonstrating that “nobody is duped by the Russian Federation’s lies”. France voted against the draft, he continued, adding: “If words are stripped of their meaning, and if truth and lies are considered on an equal footing, diplomacy is no longer possible.” France evaluated the so-called evidence in detail; the allegations are unfounded. These conclusions were already drawn during the consultations in this regard in Geneva, he said, adding that the Russian Federation itself said it had no new information. The Russian Federation will respond to the results of the vote by passing itself off as a victim and try to teach lessons on international law, he said, stating that this will be “risible if the facts weren’t cause for tears”. The Russian Federation is engaged in a war of aggression against its neighbour and is illegally annexing Ukraine’s territory. He called on the Russian Federation to cease its campaign of disinformation and expressed regret about that country’s instrumentalization of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention.
HAROLD ADLAI AGYEMAN (Ghana), Council President for the month, speaking in his national capacity, said he abstained from the vote, due to the nonconsensual outcome of the meeting held in Geneva, despite his country’s repeated proposition that a conclusive determination of Ukraine’s biological programmes could only be made after further assessment by relevant institutions. As a State party to the Biological Weapons Convention, Ghana believes in the right for States parties to engage in consultations and cooperate with each other to reach a solution in the event of any complaints of violations of the Convention, as agreed in article V, and is of the view that a necessary condition for the invocation of article VI, for a formal investigation into a complaint, should be a compelling prima facie case. He went on to reiterate that while he takes seriously issues related to the threat of use and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, he also acknowledges the right set out in article X of the Convention, which accords States parties the right to participate in the fullest possible exchange of equipment, materials and scientific and technological information for the use of bacteriological (biological) agents and toxins for peaceful purposes.