9587th Meeting (PM)

Security Council Fails to Adopt Provisional Agenda for Meeting Marking Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of North Atlantic Treaty Organization Bombing in Former Yugoslavia

Initiative by Russian Federation Lacks Required Number of Votes

The Security Council today did not hold a meeting, requested by the Russian Federation, to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the 1999 aerial bombing campaign carried out by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) against the former Yugoslavia, having failed to adopt the provisional agenda to do so after a procedural vote was requested by France.

At the outset of the meeting, the representative of France noted that several delegations — including his own — had recently expressed reservations about today’s initiative, put forth by the Russian Federation in the absence of consultations.  He further stressed that — recalling that the Council’s responsibility is to maintain international peace and security — “it is hard to see how today’s meeting would meet that requirement”.

He went on to point out that the Russian Federation argues that the issue of Kosovo is a current one on the Council’s agenda; yet, at the same time, Moscow objects to Kosovo’s participation in the meeting.  Stressing that getting involved in “pure rhetorical perspectives or marking milestones” is not in the Council’s purview, he recalled that the Russian Federation affirmed that very statement in the Council Chamber in 2015 when it urged leaving “history to the historians and justice to the tribunals”.

The representative of the Russian Federation then expressed disagreement with the French delegation’s attempt to question the meeting, noting that it had already been convened by the Council President and confirmed through the network of political coordinators.  Expressing concern over the French delegation’s plans to question the convening of the meeting – despite it being included in the programme of work for March — he requested “a proper formulation of the voting” to determine which Council members objected to holding the meeting.

The speakers for France and the Russian Federation then engaged in an extended back-and-forth.  France’s representative repeatedly stated that the Council’s agenda is a collective decision that does not belong to a single member and that the organ’s members were not consulted on whether to hold today’s meeting.  Meanwhile, the representative of the Russian Federation stressed that the Council President confirmed the holding of today’s meeting, pointing out that briefers were invited — including Serbia’s acting Prime Minister — and urging the Council to “respect those who come to take the floor”.

France’s representative, however, pointed out that, since 1 March, his delegation and others told Serbia’s delegation that this meeting would not occur.  “No one objected until today,” stressed the representative of the Russian Federation. For his part, the representative of the United States added that his delegation repeatedly tried to consult with the Russian Federation on this meeting but was rebuffed.

The Council then voted and, by a tally of none against to 3 in favour (Algeria, China, Russian Federation), with 12 abstentions, the provisional agenda was not adopted due to having failed to obtain the required number of votes.

In response, the representative of the Russian Federation officially requested to hold an open briefing on maintaining international peace and security at 3:30 p.m. on 25 March with the same briefers.  The representative of Japan, Council President for March, took note of that request but, due to its short notice, said that members will be informed accordingly following consultations.

Following the vote, China’s delegate expressed support for convening such a meeting, noting that “the impact of that war is far from over and its cautionary lessons are still profound”.  Voicing disappointment over the results of the vote, he recalled the bombing of the Chinese Embassy during the NATO campaign, which resulted in the death of three Chinese journalists, the injury of more than 20 Chinese diplomatic personnel and the destruction of the entire diplomatic premises. “This is a flagrant violation of China’s sovereignty,” he stated, adding that his country would never forget this event and would not allow such tragedies to recur.

The representative of Slovenia, noting that his delegation abstained from the vote, stated that proposals to conduct such meetings “seek to divide and politicize” the Council.  The dissolution of the former Yugoslavia was a painful period, he observed, adding that, 30 years later, “the wounds are still healing, but they still hurt”.  “We do not see value in reopening them,” he continued, noting that — despite differing narratives — all countries in the region share a common goal of joining the European Union.  “We appeal to the Russian Federation and all other members of the Security Council to remain focused on the main role of this body, which lies in maintaining international peace and security,” he concluded.

The speaker for the United States, noting that today’s procedural vote was “entirely predictable”, expressed regret that the Russian Federation wasted the Council’s time and has adopted the approach of “my way or the highway”.  “Fortunately, this is not how the Council works,” he observed, adding that the United States has nothing to hide regarding its support for the 1999 NATO operation, which was necessary and legitimate to end ethnic cleansing in Kosovo.  He added that, while the United States can support a meeting — in the appropriate format — that addresses the impacts of events from 1999, it cannot support one “that so blatantly instrumentalizes the tragic events of the last century to further a propaganda campaign”.

The representative of the Russian Federation stressed that the consequences of NATO’s aggression against the former Yugoslavia continue to impact the situation in the Western Balkans, and that this is not a historical issue as the situation in Kosovo remains on the Council’s agenda.  While some Council members state that events that are 25 years old have nothing to do with today, he said that “any reasonable person will see that the destruction of a sovereign State led to chaos increasing not just in Kosovo, but in the Balkans as a whole”.  He added that, since France’s representative stated the Council President’s provisional rulings have no force, the Russian Federation delegation will have to insist that the agenda of all Council meetings “will be done through a preliminary vote”.

The delegate of France, recalling the recent request by the President of Serbia to address the Council regarding the situation in Kosovo — which was promptly accepted — noted that the body remains actively engaged on that issue.  Referring to the procedural vote that indicated no meeting would take place, he suggested adjourning today’s “non-meeting”.

For information media. Not an official record.