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Ukraine, Japan face tense diplomacy as UN council newcomers

/ 10:34 AM October 15, 2015
Sergey Lavrov

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov addresses the United Nations Security Council at the United Nations headquarters Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015. AP Photo

UNITED NATIONS, United States—Ukraine and Japan are among five countries set to win election to the UN Security Council on Thursday, taking seats alongside Russia and China, countries with which they have tense relations.

READ: Ukraine expected to win UN Council seat—and face Russia

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Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin said Kiev will “definitely not be conciliatory” towards Russia at the top diplomatic table even as a fragile truce in east Ukraine is taking hold.

Egypt, Japan, Senegal, Ukraine and Uruguay are running unopposed for five non-permanent seats on the 15-member council after regional groupings put them forward as their choice.

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Despite the regional backing, the five countries must still lobby hard to garner support, needing two-thirds of votes from the 193-nation General Assembly to win the seat.

Voting gets under way at the General Assembly around 10:00 a.m. (1400 GMT) with results expected later in the day.

The newcomers will begin their two-year stint on January 1, replacing Chad, Chile, Jordan, Lithuania and Nigeria.

One of the most experienced Security Council members, Japan, will be taking its seat for the 11th time as it is locked in an island dispute with China and bristles at Beijing’s global role.

Taking a tough line on North Korea, Japan is expected to raise concerns about the Pyongyang regime at the council even though China sought to block discussion about human rights when it came up in December.

“For Japan and Ukraine, sitting on the council is a great advantage. It provides leverage because it provides access to this tremendously kinetic stage,” said David Malone, rector of the United Nations University.

But Malone said countries could decide to avoid clashes at the council to better serve their agendas.

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Ukraine and Japan will be making “their own calculation on how to use or not use the council in pursuing their national interests,” Malone said.

In weighing whether to confront China, Japan will have in mind its campaign for a permanent seat at an expanded Security Council, a plan fiercely opposed by Beijing and resisted by Russia and the United States.

The three countries are permanent members, along with Britain and France.

Bad blood with Russia

Klimkin traveled to New York this week to lobby for votes for Ukraine’s second stint on the Security Council since its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

Speaking to journalists, the foreign minister downplayed expectations that sparks will fly with Moscow.

“For the first time, we have an absolutely unique, unimaginable situation,” Klimkin said.

“A permanent member of the UN Security Council is an aggressor in Ukraine, waging a hybrid war against Ukraine.”

“But, of course, we will concentrate on our commitment to UN principles.”

READ: Obama, Putin to confront tensions over Syria, Ukraine

Ukraine’s election comes amid a spike in tensions between Russia and the United States over the war in Syria, just weeks after US President Barak Obama and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin delivered dueling speeches at the UN General Assembly.

The council has been stumbling in its efforts to end the four-year war, with the West pressing demands that Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad must go as a condition for a peace settlement.

Egypt is returning to the council for the sixth time as Yemen, Libya, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories join Syria on the list of Middle East crisis spots.

The council is also gearing up to play a key role in overseeing the Iran nuclear deal.

Africa, where nine of the UN’s peacekeeping missions are deployed, remains a focal point, with the violence in South Sudan and the Central African Republic on the council’s radar.

The newcomers will be joining the other five non-permanent council members: Angola, Malaysia, New Zealand, Spain and Venezuela.

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TAGS: Diplomacy, Japan, Ukraine, UN
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