Delivered by: His Excellency Mohamed Abushahab, Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative
I thank Assistant Secretary-General Jenca and Mr. Hollingsworth for their briefings, and I welcome Ukraine’s participation in today’s meeting.
As we have heard from the briefers, the lives of civilians in Ukraine remain precarious, a situation set to worsen given the onset of winter and a recent intensification of attacks on Ukraine’s critical infrastructure.
This situation is particularly concerning given that Ukraine’s energy system is more vulnerable than it was at this time last year. There is little excess capacity and minimal spare equipment. Ensuring the consistent supply of electricity and heating during the coming months will be critical for the health and safety of the population in Ukraine.
In eastern Ukraine, continued military engagements are putting civilians at risk. As fighting intensifies in various areas, civilian displacement is increasing. This is particularly challenging for the elderly and disabled and we encourage all efforts to ensure their safety and provide them with assistance.
Following the expiration of the Black Sea Grain Initiative last July, conflict intensified in and around the Black Sea and its ports. This has negatively impacted Ukraine’s ability to export grain and other food items. Reduced food exports not only impact Ukraine, but also people around the world who rely upon the stable and affordable supply of food.
Indeed, on 3 August 2023, this Council re-emphasized the obligations of all parties to conflict to comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law regarding respecting and protecting civilian objects, including objects necessary for food production and distribution, such as food processing and storage sites, and hubs and means for food transportation. This re-affirmed many of the provisions of Resolution 2417 which highlighted international humanitarian law obligations to protect objects necessary for food production and distribution and drew attention to the links between conflict and hunger. The law is clear, and we call for all parties to conflict to fully adhere to it.
The Black Sea Grain Initiative was a practical mechanism to enable the protection of civilian objects required for food distribution and it had a significant impact on global food security during the year it was in effect, enabling export of nearly 33 million metric tons of Ukrainian grains and foodstuffs.
While we regret its expiry, we note the subsequent establishment of the Black Sea Corridor, which has facilitated the export of Ukrainian food and goods through the Black Sea on over 150 ships. We also reiterate that civilian objects remain protected under international humanitarian law at all times, whether or not they are part of the Black Sea Grain Initiative or Black Sea Corridor.
We strongly encourage discussions to re-establish a joint mechanism to ensure the protection of civilian ports, shipping and other necessary elements of food distribution and to potentially create momentum for broader diplomatic breakthroughs.
There remains only one way to put a sustainable end to this war’s destructive impact on the people of Ukraine, its negative consequences for global food security, and to address its regional and international political repercussions, and that is to bring the conflict to a peaceful conclusion. We reiterate our call for a cessation of hostilities and a just and lasting peace which respects Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity, in line with the UN Charter. We encourage all serious efforts to this end and stand ready to support them.
Thank you, Mr. President.