EDITH M. LEDERERRussian ambassador leaves SC over YU ban
UNITED NATIONS (June 23, 2000) - Complaining that "gagging people's mouths" sets a dangerous precedent, Russia's U.N. ambassador walked out of the Security Council on Friday after its members refused to allow Yugoslavia to participate in a debate on the Balkans.
"To discuss the Balkan problems without the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia is nonsense," Russia's U.N. Ambassador Sergey Lavrov said after the 15-member council voted 7-4 with four abstentions to bar Yugoslavia's U.N. envoy from the meeting.
U.S. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke had urged council members to exclude Yugoslavia's representative Vladislav Jovanovic, saying "he represents a government whose senior leadership has been indicted for war crimes."
"We recommend that the council state clearly and unequivocally that it rejects the policies of hatred and war espoused by the Belgrade regime, that it does not tolerate abuses of human rights, and fully supports the efforts of the war crimes tribunal for former Yugoslavia to prosecute all - I repeat all - of those who have been indicted," Holbrooke said.
After the vote to bar Yugoslavia, Lavrov reminded council members that under the U.N. Charter, even a state that is not in the United Nations has a right to participate when it is a party to a situation under discussion in the Security Council.
"A very dangerous precedent has thus been created when states that are unpalatable for political reasons are being isolated from participation in the work of the United Nations," Lavrov said.
"Gagging people's mouths is not the best way to discuss the acute international problems in this way," he declared.
Stating that without Yugoslavia's participation the council meeting had lost "its practical meaning," Lavrov then got up and left the council chamber. A lower-ranking diplomat sat down in Russia's seat shortly afterward.
The 7-4-4 vote reflected not only the long-standing divisions in the council over Yugoslavia but uneasiness among some of the 10 elected council members over excluding a key party to a matter before the council.
Russia and China had traditionally been Yugoslavia's strongest supporters on the council. The United States, supported by its Western allies, have opposed any dealings with the Yugoslav government led by President Slobodan Milosevic, who has been indicted for war crimes.
Argentina's U.N. Ambassador Arnoldo Listre, explaining his abstention, said it did not imply any support or sympathy for the Belgrade regime but was based "on serious doubts" about the appropriateness of denying Yugoslavia's participation.
Ukraine's U.N. Ambassador Volodymyr Yel'Chenko, who supported Yugoslavia's participation, noted that last week representatives of rebel groups fighting in the Congo sat at the council table, reflecting the importance of including all key players to a dispute.
The procedural vote overshadowed the briefings by Carl Bildt, the special envoy to the Balkans of Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign and security policy chief.