(CNSNews.com) – In rare criticism of the U.N. leadership, the U.S. on Monday chided U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for not sending officials to Ukraine to investigate Moscow’s use of Iranian drones in its invasion, accusing him of “apparently yielding to Russian threats.”
“We regret that the U.N. has not moved to carry out a normal investigation of this reported violation [of Security Council resolution 2231],” U.S. Deputy Ambassador Robert Wood told a Security Council meeting.
“We are disappointed that the secretariat, apparently yielding to Russian threats, has not carried out the investigatory mandate this council has given it,” Wood said.
“There must be some degree of accountability for openly violating resolutions of this council,” he said.
The meeting was convened to discuss implementation of resolution 2231, the unanimously-adopted 2015 measure that enshrined the Iran nuclear deal negotiated during the Obama-Biden administration.
That resolution prohibits the transfer of UAVs with a range of greater than 300 kilometers (186 miles) to or from Iran, unless specifically approved by the council on a case-by-case basis.
The U.S. and others charge that both Iran and Russia are in violation of resolution 2231 – Iran for providing, and Russia for taking possession of, drones that are being used to attack Ukrainian energy infrastructure and other targets, often with deadly effect.
Just hours before the council met, Russia launched multiple explosive drones in an early morning attack on Kyiv, the latest of numerous such assaults since late summer.
Wood noted that after Russia first started using Iranian drones, Ukraine reported the violation to the U.N., and the U.S. and others “have since supplied the U.N. with additional information and analysis regarding this violation.”
Russia continues to deny using Iranian-supplied drones in Ukraine. Iran initially denied having sent any drones to Russia, then later acknowledged it had provided a small number, but insisted it did so shortly before President Vladimir Putin launched the invasion in February.
Against a backdrop of such denials, Ukraine’s U.N. Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya in an October 17 letter to Guterres invited him to send experts to Ukraine “at the earliest possible opportunity to inspect recovered Iranian-origin unmanned aerial vehicles.”
Days later, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield formally requested the U.N. secretariat send a team to “conduct a technical and impartial investigation that assesses the type of unmanned aerial vehicles involved in these transfers in the light of the prohibitions contained in the resolution.”
But her Russian counterpart, Vassily Nebenzia, in a letter of his own declared that the secretariat “has no authority to conduct, or engage in” any such investigation, and that doing so would be in violation of the U.N. Charter.
“We call upon the members of the Security Council to oppose the attempts of certain delegations to undermine the integrity of the Charter, putting at risk the authority of the Security Council and of the United Nations as a whole, and to request the United Nations Secretariat to abstain from any engagement in any form in any ‘investigation’ with regard to any claims of alleged violation of resolution 2231,” he wrote.
Nebenzia sent two further letters, making the same points, in early December.
In Monday’s council meeting, Nebenzia said that the U.N. secretariat “should not bow to pressure from Western countries,” and declared that the results of any “pseudo investigation” carried out would be “null and void.”
The ambassadors of Britain, France, and Germany in a statement after the meeting said Iran has since August provided hundreds of drones to Russia, “which has used them to kill civilians and target infrastructure,” adding that indiscriminate attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure constitute war crimes.
“We would welcome a visit by competent U.N. experts to Ukraine, as requested by the government of Ukraine and supported by other member-states,” said the statement, read out by British Ambassador Barbara Woodward.
Earlier on Monday, Guterres was asked during an end-of-year press conference about the pressure he has come under from Western nations to send a team to Kyiv to investigate the reported use of Iranian drones in the conflict, and from Russia not to do so.
“You haven’t sent one yet. Why not?” a reporter asked. “Are you worried this could affect your diplomacy in other areas related to the conflict?”
Guterres acknowledged that the attacks on Ukraine’s power grid infrastructure were “causing terrible trouble for the people.”
But on sending investigators to Kyiv, his response was cautious: “We are looking into all the aspects of that question, and in the broader picture of everything we are doing in the context of the war, to determine if and when we should do what you have asked for.”
In a 10-minute opening statement before taking questions, Guterres spoke about his hopes for 2023.
Apart from a few remarks on the U.N.-mediated Black Sea grain initiative, he dedicated a single sentence to the war in Ukraine: “We will not relent in the pursuit of peace in Ukraine, peace in line with international law and the United Nations Charter.”
Guterres then switched topics to climate change, devoting more than 400 words to the issue.
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