US and Russia clash over use and impact of UN sanctions

UNITED NATIONS (AP) – The United States and its allies clashed Monday at the UN Security Council with Russia and China over the usefulness and impact of the UN sanctions, which are currently being imposed to countries ranging from North Korea to Yemen and Congo as well as al-Qaeda and Islamic State extremist groups and their affiliates and supporters.

Russia, which holds the presidency of the Council at this meeting and chose the subject – preventing the humanitarian and unintended consequences of sanctions – also denounced the unilateral sanctions imposed by the United States, the European Union and other countries and groups.

UN political chief Rosemary DiCarlo told the council that there are 14 UN sanctions regimes: for example, in Libya, Mali, South Sudan and Yemen, they support the resolution of the Conflicts ; in Guinea-Bissau, they aim to deter unconstitutional changes of government; in the Central African Republic, Congo and Somalia, they curb the illicit exploitation of natural resources that finance armed groups; in North Korea, they target proliferation activities; and they limit terrorist threats from the Islamic State and al-Qaeda.

DiCarlo said UN sanctions are no longer “the blunt instrument they once were”. Since the 1990s, they have undergone changes to minimize possible adverse consequences on civilians and third countries, and the Security Council has included and provided for humanitarian exemptions in most sanctions regimes, she said. .

Russia’s deputy UN ambassador Dmitry Polyansky, who chaired the meeting, said many sanctions regimes interfere with state-building and economic development plans, pointing the finger at the Central African Republic and Sudan and calling the measures against Guinea-Bissau “anachronistic”.

The Security Council must “pay more attention to what the authorities of states under sanctions think” and be more realistic in setting benchmarks for lifting them to ensure that they do not turn into “mission impossible”, did he declare.

US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield countered that sanctions are “a powerful tool” that “make it harder for terrorists to raise funds through international financial systems” and have slowed the development of “certain capacities” in programs North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile weapons. Sanctions also “constrain the resources of those who would spoil peace processes, threaten UN peacekeepers, commit atrocities and obstruct humanitarian aid,” she said.

Britain’s deputy ambassador, James Kariyuki, said the value of UN sanctions had been proven in Angola, Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia and Sierra Leone where “they helped end the conflicts and to support the transition to peace and democracy” and were subsequently lifted.

“In the Central African Republic, they improved the practices of a mining company,” he said. “In Somalia, the arms embargo has resulted in the seizure of thousands of cartridges, anti-tank guided missiles and sniper rifles believed to have been destined for al-Shabab”, the extremist group linked to al-Qaeda.

Russia’s Polyansky took particular aim at sanctions imposed outside the UN by countries or groups, which he said ‘remain a serious obstacle to the full functioning of humanitarian exemptions’, citing problems with contractors , carriers, freight insurance and banking.

He also said that Russia operates on the principle that only UN sanctions “are legitimate” and that a wider use of unilateral sanctions “undermines the norms and institutes of international law”.

Polyansky claimed that “secondary sanctions from major Western powers are creating a ‘toxic vibe’ around Pyongyang” that discourages cooperation even in areas not affected by international restrictions. He also cited what he called the “sanctions war” against Russia’s ally Syria, which has very negatively affected its economy, as well as US sanctions against Cuba and Venezuela.

Chinese Ambassador to the UN Zhang Jun called the unilateral sanctions “extremely harmful” and expressed concern that a few countries “threw them left, right and center, with a such a frenzy that they seem to be addicted to it”. He said that these measures “have put a brake on the economic and social development works and the scientific and technological progress of the targeted countries”.

Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador, countered that the US much prefers sanctions to be imposed multilaterally, including in the Security Council.

But when some Council members block “critical designations of peace process saboteurs, high-level terrorists, human rights abusers and sanctions evaders”, the United States and many other countries are ready to act – and to use their national monetary regulations and financial systems “as economic leverage to address pressing global challenges such as nuclear proliferation, human rights abuses and violations, and corruption,” he said. she stated.

To Russia’s assertion that sanctions imposed by individual countries may be illegal, Thomas-Greenfield countered, “the United States categorically rejects that position.”

The United States fully supports its partners, regional organizations including the European Union, African Union, and the West African regional group ECOWAS “which are imposing their own sanctions in response to threats,” she said. .

France’s deputy ambassador to the UN, Nathalie Broadhurst, said the EU sanctions were ”in line with international law” and ”do not hinder humanitarian action”.

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