The president of Argentina has used the opportunity of presiding over the UN Security Council for the first time to take aim at the veto power of its five permanent members — the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France.
Cristina Fernandez also criticized on Tuesday member states that don't implement UN resolutions, citing unheeded demands for a Palestinian state and Britain's refusal to engage in talks about the disputed Falkland Islands, which Argentina calls the Malvinas.
Argentina, which holds the rotating Security Council presidency this month, chose as the theme of Tuesday's high-level meeting the relations between the Security Council and regional organizations, which play an increasing role in trying to prevent conflict and restore peace.
It's rare for a head of state to preside over the council, where diplomats usually hold forth.
Fernandez said the veto was a safeguard during the Cold War to prevent "nuclear holocaust" — but today the United States and Russia sit at the same table "and we can't deal with the problems in this new world with old instruments and old methods."
' We can't deal with the problems in this new world with old instruments and old methods.' — Cristina Fernandez, president of Argentina
Fernandez pointed to two Latin American organizations — the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States and the Union of South American Nations — which make decisions on the basis of unanimity when there is a conflict. By contrast, she criticized the use of vetoes by the permanent members of the Security Council.
Russia and China have vetoed three Western-backed resolutions to pressure Syrian President Bashar Assad to end the 2½-year conflict that has killed more than 100,000 people; the United States, Israel's closest ally, has vetoed numerous resolutions over the years on the Palestinian conflict with Israel.
Fernandez strongly supported the Arab League's UN observer Ahmed Fathalla who has said all 193 UN member states must implement its resolutions. This is "the crux of resolving conflicts and central to the effectiveness of the Security Council in settling different matters," she said.
Fernandez cited the Palestinian conflict and the resolution calling for British-Argentine talks on the disputed islands, which Argentina claims Britain has illegally occupied since 1833. Britain disputes the claim and says Argentina is ignoring the wishes of the island's 3,000 residents who have expressed a desire to remain British, but Argentina maintains that the residents do not have the unilateral right to decide sovereignty over the islands.
Calling for Britain to engage in conversations, Fernandez said "this isn't caprice, it isn't saying we're right. We are just saying that we would like the UN resolution to be implemented, that both countries should sit down and discuss a controversial matter."
Mark Lyall Grant, Britain's UN ambassador, responded in a statement stressing that any discussion must include the Falkland islanders., who voted overwhelmingly in a referendum to remain part of Britain.
Fernandez and many speakers from Latin America expressed serious concern at reports by NSA leaker Edward Snowden that a U.S. spy program is widely targeting data in emails and telephone calls across Latin America.