Let me thank USG Griffiths, High Commissioner Bachelet, and Tetiana Luzan for your sobering but very important insight into the daily reality of millions of Ukrainians. With a special thanks to the Secretary-General for his briefing, and for his recent visits to Russia and Ukraine. You have our strong support to use your good offices, in search of a peaceful solution to this senseless, horrific, war in Ukraine.
Norway recalls that all Member States- under the Charter of the United Nations- have the obligation to settle their international disputes by peaceful means. We support all sincere efforts towards political dialogue, negotiations, and mediation.
But it is Russia that has chosen to start an unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine, and must take steps to end it.
We welcome yesterday’s joint statement by a cross-regional group of freedom of expression mandate holders. We agree that it is precisely during times of war and armed conflict that the right to freedom of expression, and free access to information, must be vigorously defended.
It is instrumental for the promotion of lasting peace, understanding the causes of the conflict, and ensuring accountability.
We continue to be alarmed by the humanitarian situation- including in Mariupol.
As you, High Commissioner Bachelet have highlighted- it seems that “international humanitarian law has not merely been ignored, but seemingly tossed aside”.
Safe, rapid, and unimpeded humanitarian access to people in need must be allowed immediately. While we are relieved that the safe passage operation to evacuate civilians from the Azovstal Steel Plant was successful in bringing some to safety. The poor condition of many of the evacuees shows the urgent need to also allow for the humanitarian voluntary safe passage of thousands of civilians, and hundreds of wounded out of the city.
Norway is deeply worried that Russia’s intensified hostilities in eastern Ukraine will lead to new besiegements of entire cities and towns. And that the suffering and bloodshed that has engulfed Mariupol may be repeated elsewhere.
We call on Russia to immediately end its relentless attacks on civilians. The continued bombardment of civil infrastructure must also stop. Ukrainian ports must be reopened to allow wheat and grain to reach those in need globally. The crippling impact of Russia’s war on the food security of millions of people is unacceptable.
There are abundant indications of massive scale war crimes being committed. These atrocities will not be forgotten. Individuals at all levels will be held to account. There must be accountability for the sake of the victims, and all people of Ukraine.
We welcome that the International Criminal Court and the Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine will continue to coordinate, cooperate- and work together with others- to investigate possible violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.
Also, earlier this week, the UN signed a Framework of Cooperation with Ukraine on the prevention and response to conflict-related sexual violence. This is a key example of positive partnership that the Secretary-General’s good offices can provide. We strongly support all efforts made to bolster accountability, risk mitigation against trafficking, and access to comprehensive services for survivors.
I started my remarks today reminding of the obligation of Member States to settle their disputes through peaceful means.
Russia started this senseless war. Russia must immediately, completely, and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces from the territory of Ukraine- within its internationally recognised borders.