Today (6 June), the Security Council adopted a presidential statement on Ukraine. This was the first formal outcome that the Council has been able to produce on Ukraine since 17 February 2015, when it adopted resolution 2202 endorsing the Minsk agreements. The presidential statement was the result of a decision to combine two alternative texts: a draft press statement initially proposed by France and a draft presidential statement put forth by Russia. The most contentious element in the negotiations was finding language on the downing of MH17 in 2014 that was acceptable to all members, especially the Netherlands and Russia.
Ahead of the Security Council’s 29 May briefing on the situation in Ukraine (S/PV.8270), France circulated a draft press statement to Council members. This initial draft statement was largely composed of elements of agreed language from previous outcomes on Ukraine. It expressed concern over the worsening security situation in eastern Ukraine and condemned continuous violations of the ceasefire, including the use of heavy weapons. In addition to welcoming the work of UN agencies in addressing the humanitarian situation, the draft statement stressed the need to scale up efforts to alleviate the suffering of civilians. It expressed support for the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission and called on all parties to facilitate its work. It further underlined the need for full compliance with resolution 2202.
Following an initial round of negotiations, the draft statement was expanded to include references to resolution 2166 on the downing of flight MH17, including a call for the cooperation of member states in establishing accountability for this incident. It seems that this proposal was made by the Netherlands and supported by other European members of the Council and the US.
It appears that Russia opposed the inclusion of this language on accountability, and negotiations on the draft press statement stalled. At the 29 May meeting, Russia proposed an alternative text in the form of a short presidential statement, which reaffirmed unconditionally resolution 2202 and called for comprehensive and sequential implementation of the provisions of the Minsk agreements. While a press statement and a presidential statement both require unanimous support to be adopted, a presidential statement is considered a formal Council document and thus carries greater political weight.
Several members believed that the Russian draft presidential statement did not incorporate important issues that had been reflected in the draft press statement proposed by France, such as an expression of support for the territorial integrity of Ukraine and recognition of the need to address the difficult humanitarian situation in the eastern part of the country. The Netherlands, which lost 193 nationals in the crash of MH17, and some other members appear to have objected to the absence in the Russian draft statement of specific language on accountability for the downing of MH17. By Friday last week (1 June), it appeared that a compromise would not be reached on either the press statement proposed by France or the presidential statement proposed by Russia.
Over the weekend (2-3 June) and early into this week, it seems that France engaged in bilateral negotiations in an effort to find a possible compromise.
On Tuesday morning (5 June), France put forward a draft presidential statement that merged elements of its initial draft press statement and the Russian draft presidential statement. It seems that non-Council member Germany, a participant (along with France, Russia and Ukraine) in the Normandy format which provides a framework for negotiating a resolution to the Ukraine crisis, played an important role behind the scenes in supporting the French initiative. The draft presidential statement proposed by France reaffirmed full support for resolution 2166 on the downing of MH17 without making specific reference to accountability for the incident. This formulation on the downing of MH17 was acceptable to both the Netherlands and Russia. This paved the way for the adoption of the presidential statement, as the draft passed silence later the same day.