Ukraine closes airspace to civilian flights amid ‘high security risk’

NEW YORK: During a meeting at the UN on Wednesday, Gulf countries expressed grave concern over the deteriorating situation in Ukraine and urged all participants to work to resolve the crisis through dialogue and diplomacy .

Speaking on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Abdulaziz Alateek, Deputy Permanent Representative of Saudi Arabia to the United Nations, expressed the Council’s support for international efforts to encourage calm and a de-escalation of tensions, and urged those involved in the conflict to engage in political discussions in an effort to find a solution.

He called for the full implementation of Security Council Resolution 2202, which was adopted unanimously in 2015 and calls for a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine and the simultaneous withdrawal of all heavy weapons by both sides to create a safe zone.

His remarks came during a plenary session of the United Nations General Assembly to discuss the latest developments in the long-simmering crisis along Ukraine’s eastern borders.

On Wednesday, Western leaders sought to dissuade Moscow from launching a full-scale invasion of the country by imposing punitive sanctions on members of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle and threatening even harsher sanctions if the Kremlin launched a military offensive.

The punitive actions were declared in response to the latest developments surrounding Russia’s deployment of 150,000 troops along three sides of its border with Ukraine.

With a full-scale invasion yet to be launched, Russian forces arrived in the rebel Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine on Tuesday after President Vladimir Putin officially acknowledged the independence of these separatist areas.

“Civilians do not have to pay the price for military escalation,” Alateek told representatives from more than 70 countries at the meeting. He said the GCC is “supportive of international law and the UN Charter, in particular the principle of peaceful settlement of disputes, non-use or threat of force, and of the principle of sovereignty and territorial integrity”. ”

Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, said Putin’s recognition of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent states is “the ultimate blow to years of peace processes”.

He warned other member states that if Putin is not arrested, others will follow in his footsteps and “your government and your people will suffer the same consequences as our government and our people”.

He added: “It is clear that Putin will not stop on his own. A war in Ukraine will be the end of the world order as we know it, a grim scenario that will plunge us back into the darkness” of previous centuries.

Kuleba described the current situation as “Europe’s greatest security crisis” since World War II, and said any failure by the international community to respond properly will only add to the suffering, which “I regret to say, this will not be limited to Ukraine.

He added that “Russia must withdraw its forces from Ukrainian territories”, and said that a rapid UN response, commensurate with the gravity of the situation, would help restore the organization’s credibility.

Vassily Nebenzia, Russia’s permanent representative to the UN, accused the Ukrainian government of carrying out a “policy of deprivation of fundamental human rights against its own people”.

He said: “Kiev continues to bombard its own citizens and evade direct dialogue in the Donbass (region).

“Ukraine is at war with its own citizens who disagree with the authorities’ current policy. Western donors have done nothing to ask Ukraine to consider its own people, which demonstrates double standards.

He added that “in the midst of this ‘genocide’, Russia cannot remain indifferent”.

Nebenzia warned that “this conflict is by no means over. The shelling of residential areas in the two republics (of Donetsk and Lugansk) has not ceased. We warn you, since the ceasefire will be monitored by Russian forces, no one intends to go easy on the violators. We encourage you to master Kyiv.

The Russian envoy also criticized UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who he said “has followed the sad example of the West”. He also rejected the UN chief’s offer of his “good offices” for a return to dialogue.

“We don’t understand what ‘good offices’ the secretary-general is talking about and which can be provided,” he added.

António Guterres had called for a ceasefire and the immediate restoration of the rule of law, describing the crisis as a “moment of peril that I really hoped would not happen”.

Responding to Russia’s insistence on conducting a peacekeeping mission in eastern Ukraine, António Guterres expressed concern about “the perversion of the concept of peacekeeping”.

He added: “When the troops of one country enter the territory of another country without its consent, they are not impartial peacekeepers. They are not peacekeepers at all.

Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon, Britain’s minister of state for the Commonwealth and the United Nations, said his country had imposed “the biggest set of sanctions against Russia in UK history”.

He added that “the Kremlin must understand the strength of global condemnation of Putin’s choice of war” and “we must say very clearly to Russia: ‘Stand back; choose peace and not war. And to the Ukrainian people: “We, the United Nations, stand with you.”

Tobias Lindner, Minister of State at the German Foreign Office, said: “We must close ranks and firmly reject Russia’s actions. Otherwise, what happens to Ukraine today will happen to other (UN) members tomorrow.

US envoy Linda Thomas-Greenfield warned: “If Russia continues on this path, it could (create) a new refugee crisis, one of the largest facing the world today, with up to 5 million more people displaced by Russia’s war of choice, and putting pressure on Ukraine’s neighbors.

“Because Ukraine is one of the world’s largest suppliers of wheat, particularly to the developing world, Russia’s actions could cause food prices to soar and lead to even more desperate hunger in places like Libya, Yemen and Lebanon”.

Martin E. Berry