UN Security Council debates Nord Stream pipeline incidents

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UN Security Council debates Nord Stream pipeline incidents

“We are not here to set up a trial in the Security Council”, Russian ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said during discussions. He said Moscow was presenting a request for an independent investigation in light of doubts about the integrity and transparency of Denmark, Germany and Sweden in their ongoing inquiries. 

Instead, he said, the UN Secretary-General “is someone we trust” to lead an investigation following reports in September of four leaks in the 1,224-kilometre-long pipelines that supply gas from Russia to Europe.

There was “proof that explosives had been planted” near the pipeline during a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) exercise in the summer of 2022, he said, referring to a recent United States news report by reporter Seymour Hersh claiming Washington was involved.

“This journalist is telling the truth,” he told Council members. “This is more than just a smoking gun that detectives love in Hollywood blockbusters. It’s a basic principle of justice; everything is in your hands, and we can resolve this today.”

US Ambassador John Kelley said “today’s meeting is a blatant attempt to distract” from the forthcoming emergency meeting of the General Assembly that will mark one-year since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022.

“That is what our focus should be on,” he said. “Russia desperately wants to change the subject.” Russia is “abusing its position as a Council member” for using this platform to air internet conspiracy theories.

In addition, accusations that the US was involved in acts of sabotage “are completely false”, he said, pointing out that resources for UN investigations should be preserved when States are unwilling or unable to investigate, unlike the current ongoing inquiries.

Avoid speculation

At the outset of the discussion, UN Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo, in a briefing to the Council, urged all parties to “show restraint and avoid any speculation” given the sensitivity regarding this issue.

“We should avoid any unfounded accusations that could further escalate the already heightened tensions in the region and potentially inhibit the search for the truth,” she said.

At the same time, the UN “is not in a position to verify or confirm any of the claims relating to these incidents, and we await the findings of ongoing national investigations,” she explained. She noted that preliminary results of the ongoing inquiries show “extensive damage”, signs of “gross sabotage” and “foreign items” seized at the site.

While some Council members supported the launch of a UN-led inquiry, others emphasized that ongoing inquiries are enough, with many raising grave concerns about the ecological impact of the incidents. Many agreed that efforts should focus on de-escalating tensions in the region.

Ms. DiCarlo said that while exactly what happened beneath the waters of the Baltic Sea in September 2022 is still unclear, “one thing is certain: whatever caused the incident, its fallout counts among the many risks the invasion of Ukraine has unleashed”.

One year since the start of the war, she said, “we must redouble our efforts to end it, in line with international law and the UN Charter”.

New ecological impact report

Meanwhile, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) had released new findings on Monday about the Nord Stream incidents, based on analysis from its International Methane Emissions Observatory (IMEO).

While enormous for a single event, the Nord Stream incident is a drop in the ocean compared to the amount of methane released globally,” said Manfredi Caltagirone, head of the observatory.

Still, UNEP analyses estimated the plausible range of total methane emissions leaked during the incident as a record 75 to 230 kilotons.

The Security Council had first considered the Nord Stream pipeline incidents in a late September meeting at Russia’s request. At that meeting, Navid Hanif, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development at the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, had said the international community must take steps to address the consequences of the recent leaks in the Nord Stream pipelines, while its causes are being investigated.

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