On October 27-28, Deputy Head of the Ukrainian President’s Office, Andrii Sybiha, visited the UN Headquarters in New York. There he held talks with the organization's officials, including Deputy Secretary-General for Political Affairs and Peacebuilding Rosemary DiCarlo and Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights Ilze Brands Kehris. It was on these days that draft resolutions on the human rights situation of the occupied Crimea, as well as the militarization of the peninsula and parts of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, were submitted to the General Assembly.
An Ukrinform correspondent in New York asked Mr. Sybiha a few questions in this regard.
- You have just stepped out of the UN headquarters. What did you discuss there?
- Indeed, I had meetings where I discussed, among other things, the two resolutions on Crimea, submitted to the General Assembly earlier today. This is primarily about an updated – I will say more – strengthened resolution on the human rights situation of the occupied Crimea.
In the UN, we also discussed assistance in the release of Ukrainian citizens illegally held by Russia, whose list had previously been handed over to the secretary-general. We raised the issue of recent arrests in Crimea, including that of Nariman Dzhelal, Deputy Chairman of the Crimean Tatar People's Mejlis, whom the occupation authorities detained as he returned home shortly after he participated in the Crimea Platform summit (in Kyiv - ed.). The possibility of the UN secretary general visiting Ukraine was also discussed.
- Well, it would be weird if you didn't ask…
When the time comes and such a visit is filled with substantive content, which is now being worked on by both our Permanent Mission to the UN and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
… I also briefed my interlocutors on the latest developments in eastern Ukraine and told them about the challenges facing our country in connection with the completion of Nord Stream 2. I saw full understanding of this being a real security challenge – not only for Ukraine, but for the whole region.
- Will the topic of the Crimea Platform be included in the resolution on the human rights situation of the occupied Crimea?
- Yes, it definitely will. This enhanced resolution, tabled in the General Assembly, contains provisions on the Crimea Platform.
- So we can say that, if it is adopted, it will be the first UN document that will officially refer to the Crimea Platform, is that correct?
- Yes, the first official document.
Besides, the resolution will contain additional provisions on Crimean Tatars as an indigenous people of Ukraine.
- That’s right… It will also condemn the census by the Russian authorities and the involvement of young people in military exercises in the occupied territories.
We also discussed the outcome of the first ladies' summit held in Kyiv this August. One of the documents adopted following the summit was a statement on the protection of women and girls’ rights in conflict zones. It testified to how quickly the Ukrainian side responded to the challenges related to the evacuation from Afghanistan. Our country evacuated more than 700 people, and among those rescued was the family of Sahra Karimi, an acclaimed Afghan filmmaker, who was invited to the Kyiv summit held in Kyiv at the time, where she delivered her address. The adoption of the relevant statement was an immediate reaction to this all.
- Apart from the UN, what other meetings did you have here?
- I was honored to visit the major Ukrainian community centers in New York. This gave me the opportunity to see once again the enormous potential and capabilities of these highly organized associations of Ukrainians. In particular, in New York I visited the Ukrainian Institute of America, the Ukrainian Museum, while in New Jersey I went to a pantheon of Ukraine’s prominent historical figures.
- As we know, the Ukraine-U.S. Strategic Partnership Commission will soon convene after a long break, where the updated Charter on Strategic Partnership will be signed. Could you please specify when exactly this Commission will meet and what significant changes will the document envisage?
- The Commission will meet in the first half of November. We are currently in the active stage of drafting the content for this meeting, where the key issue, of course, will be the adoption of an updated Charter on Strategic Partnership. The process of coordinating the parties’ positions is now underway.
This is what the presidents of Ukraine and the United States have agreed on during Volodymyr Zelensky's recent visit to Washington, as was reported earlier. I believe this was a milestone visit as it really launched new opportunities on our bilateral agenda, with a focus on defense and security. This was continued by the Kyiv visit of U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. We are now also actively working on filling the strategic defense agreement that was signed during the Ukrainian president’s visit to the United States.
It should be recalled that a strategic energy dialogue was launched during that trip. The joint statement has set out the position of both parties on trade liberalization. In practice, this means new opportunities as regards gaining access to the U.S. markets and expanding the range of Ukrainian goods represented there. We also talked cooperation in nuclear energy, countering Nord Stream 2, as well as cooperation in space. By the way, Volodymyr Zelensky was the first president of Ukraine to visit the NASA headquarters, where important talks were held on Ukraine's possible participation in space projects.
In short, everything is going according to plan, while the Commission will meet real soon.
- Yes, we’re already seeing the practical use of Nord Stream 2 as a geopolitical weapon.
We’re in constant contact with both the American and German sides. These countries have appointed their special envoys for the issue. Ukraine has initiated consultations with the European Union on the threats and risks, related to Nord Stream 2, for the energy security of the European continent. According to a decree of the president of Ukraine, a relevant group was set up to develop tools – ranging from legal to political ones – to counter the said project.
- Russia has been avoiding meetings in the Normandy format, including at the level of foreign ministers. How can their position be influenced? Is it possible to engage American partners in the negotiation process, as President Zelensky has repeatedly suggested?
- We are not the party that’s been blocking the peace process. We have a common position with Germany and France on the so-called cluster approach. That is, it’s a combination of different approaches, different formats aimed to resolve the situation.
- As you have already mentioned, Volodymyr Zelensky handed over the lists of about 450 prisoners to both U.S. President Joe Biden and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. What kind of support can we count on?
- We hope all of our partners will support us in exerting pressure on Russia, so that all illegally held citizens return to their homeland ... The issue is raised at all meetings and at all levels. To date, there has been no progress in this regard. Therefore, we continue to actively work with our partners to achieve the desired result.
Volodymyr Ilchenko, New York
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