Foreign minister: Estonia's May UNSC presidency stint was a success ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu attending a video conference.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu attending a video conference. Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Estonia has ended its first one-month term of holding the UN Security Council (UNSC) rotating presidency, and on Monday handed over the role to permanent UNSC member France.

Foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu said the stint had been a successful one.

"The month of May put Estonia's foreign service at the heart of crisis diplomacy during one of the greatest global crises – we handled this challenge well," Reinsalu said, according to a foreign ministry press release.

"Despite the complicated circumstances and novel working conditions, we attracted widespread attention and managed to bring together an unprecedented number of countries on issues important to us," he added.

Estonia made its mark digitally, Reinsalu said, with two major events on May 8, where European security was on the table, and on May 22, where the council took a look at cyber-stability.

"We demonstrated that the video diplomacy during a crisis period still makes it possible to bring together a large number of UN member states, and thanks to smart solutions, the voice of smaller nations can be heard by many. The event on May 8 was the largest high-level event of UN member states since the start of the coronavirus crisis, bringing together nearly 50 foreign ministers and almost 80 UN member states. On 22 May, 60 states discussed issues of cyber-stability as a separate topic, for the first time in UNSC history," Reinsalu said.

Estonia took its role and responsibilities seriously, the foreign ministry says, pointing President Kersti Kaljulaid's stress on the protection of civilians at a high-level UNSC meeting and Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) opening the meeting on cybersecurity as evidence of that.

Estonia's Permanent Representative to the UN Sven Jürgenson added that many colleagues have commented on Estonia's smoothly-run presidency.

"Throughout an unusual time, we represented a voice on the UNSC which was innovative and strived to include as many countries as possible. Our special events have already been cited as examples at various meetings and it is clear that this presidency will be remembered," Jürgenson said.

Urmas Reinsalu also praised the work of diplomats on the ground, during the unusual situation.

"Our capable diplomats in New York deserve particular praise, as they prepared for and led discussions on Libya, Syria, Venezuela and other regions, literally from their living rooms. The pandemic-ravaged New York, and the resulting teleworking arrangements, forced them and their families to face unexpectedly complicated working conditions."

Other important discussions led by Estonia through May looked at the council's working methods, the protection of civilians in conflict zones, the use of chemical weapons in Syria, and the cooperation of the EU and UN.

All discussions were also noteworthy in their level of expert participants, the foreign ministry says.

Academics from the top universities worldwide, as well as the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the Director General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons Fernando Arias, and the European Union's High Representative Josep Borrell, all briefed the UNSC through May, at Estonia's invitation.

Estonia also kept the impact of COVID-19 on security in focus through May. It is still crucial to put pressure on parties to implement ceasefires, the Estonian foreign ministry says, with the UNSC playing a key role here.

However, this was one fly in the ointment insofar as making progress goes, the ministry said.

"Regrettably, the UNSC has still not come to an agreement on a resolution, which would provide support to the call made by the Secretary-General. We made efforts ourselves to spur on negotiations but these were not successful. As we promised, we consistently kept the council focused on the impact of the pandemic; on May 27 we organised a meeting between the UNSC and the UN Secretary-General [António Guterres ], on implementing the ceasefire," Reinsalu said.

The current presidency period has been named European Spring in New York, with Estonia (May), France (June) and non-permanent member Germany (July) holding the presidency consecutively.

Estonia, which was elected a non-permanent UNSC member last June and took up its two-year post in January next holds the presidency in 2021, though the month is not known yet.

The foreign ministry has more about Estonia's activities during May's presidency here.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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