Foreign minister: UNSC presidency puts Estonia at heart of global diplomacy

Estonia's UN ambassador, Sven Jürgenson.
Estonia's UN ambassador, Sven Jürgenson. Source: UN

Estonia's one-month presidency of the UN Security Council (UNSC) started Friday, with comment coming from both insiders such as foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) and UN ambassador from Estonia Sven Jürgenson, as well as outside experts, to the effect that focus on international law and the safety of civilians in conflict zones during the coronavirus pandemic were key, as well as facing issues such as the role of the U.S. in a proposed ceasefire.

Speaking on ETV current affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera" Friday, foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu said that the UNSC presidency lies at the heart of global diplomacy, formulating as it does the council's discussion agenda, while proposing solutions and leading to resolution.

"The key issues that Estonia wants to address are the security situation in today's Europe with a view to the anniversary of the end of the Second World War, cyber threats, UN cooperation with the EU, and the protection of civilians," Reinsalu said.

Reinsalu added that one of Estonia's goals is for the UNSC to focus on the threats related to coronavirus in order to protect those in conflict zones.

"Estonia would certainly like to see the UNSC adopt a resolution on the pandemic, which would give UN Secretary-General Guterres the opportunity to declare a ceasefire which is actually based on the resolution," said Erkki Bahovski, editor-in-chief of Diplomatia magazine, ERR's online news in Estonian reports.

Bahovski said there are two big problems with the adoption of this resolution, first the lack of leeway it would give the U.S. in counter-terrorism operations, and second, the fact that it references the World Health Organization (WHO), whose funding U.S. President Donald Trump cut in mid-April.

"If a ceasefire is declared or member states are called upon to ceasefire on the basis of this resolution, the Americans, for example, could immediately say that they now cannot carry out counter-terrorism operations, such as killing [Iranian general Qasem] Soleimani earlier this year."

Estonia's second important step will be established on May 8, when it will hold a high-level debate commemorating the 75th anniversary of the end of World War Two in Europe.

Much attention is expected to be paid on this, and the video-linked discussion in the context of pandemic conditions are to contribute to this.

The remote link might also attract more takers than a face-to-face meeting in New York, seat of the UN's headquarters, would have done, however, Reinsalu said. The foreign ministry told ERR News on Saturday that uptake in interest in remote meetings had been notable, compared with in-person, high-level meetings.

"I have also spoken to dozens of foreign ministers around the world, and invited them to take part in this high-level debate. I think they are much more likely to take part if they all came together in New York," Reinsalu said.

Estonia, in its first year of a two-year non-permanent seat on the UNSC, also has the option of holding the rotating presidency in summer 2021, ERR's online news in Estonian reports.

Ambassador Jürgenson: Monitoring international law compliance important, as well as coronavirus spread

At a press conference in New York on Friday, Estonia's Ambassador to the UN Sven Jürgenson emphasized that in addition to the spread of coronavirus, it is still vital to ensure that member states comply with international law.

"Estonia's priority during the presidency is that the principles of international law must be observed. Since a global pandemic can have a major impact on global peace and security, we will keep this issue high on the agenda," Jürgenson said.

"We will ensure the UNSC's transparency. We will also raise the issue of new security threats," Jürgenson went on, noting that the council's presidency is to be held by three EU nations in a row – following Estonia's month-long term, permanent members France and then Germany take on the role by turns.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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