On March 27, the U.N. General Assembly declared Crimea’s secession from Ukraine illegal. About half of the 193-nation group— 100 nations— voted in favor of non-binding resolution 68/39, which was proposed by Ukraine and supported by the United States and the European Union. Some two dozen countries were absent from the vote – including Iran and Israel, which rarely take the same action at the United Nations. The two likely did not vote for very different reasons.
Iran likely wanted to maintain its strong relationship with Russia. Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani said Iran would “remain neutral on the issue” but criticized the West for not accepting the results of the Crimean referendum. Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said the Ukrainian people should be allowed to determine their own fate in a press conference on March 1, 2014.
For Israel, the issue of annexation is sensitive due to the disputed status of the Palestinian Territories it gained after the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.
Only 11 countries voted against the resolution, which argues that the secession referendum has “no validity” and urges the international community to reject changes to Ukraine’s borders.
On March 19, Russia warned that tensions over Ukraine could spill over into negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov warned that Moscow could take “retaliatory measures” on its Iran policy if pressured by the West.
But U.S. officials were confident that the Iran talks would not be affected. “The overriding commitment is one of working together to resolve the Iran nuclear program and there are many other issues in the world that will continue to cause us to have disagreements and debates and sometimes to find ourselves in opposition to one another," said U.S. ambassador the U.N. nuclear watchdog Joseph Macmanus on March 5.
The following are remarks by Iranian leaders and excerpts from the U.N. resolution followed by a breakdown of the vote.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
“We are concerned about the situation in Ukraine” and hope for “a solution based upon calm and progress would be agreed” between the two sides.
Senior Foreign Policy Advisor to the Supreme Leader
Ali Akbar Velayati
“Today …separatism is a [serious] threat against Ukraine and the security of the Caucasus region is very important and must receive special attention.”
Feb. 24, 2014 in a meeting with the Japan Institute of International Affairs in Tehran
NATO has “set its greedy eyes on Ukraine.”
Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Marzieh Afkham
“We believe that Ukraine’s fate should be determined by the people’s resolve, harmony between the country’s political forces, and no foreign interference.”
Feb. 24, 2014 to the press
Member of Parliament Mohammad Esmail Kowsari
“Americans and Westerners will definitely achieve nothing in Ukraine because whenever people enter the scene to decide their own fate, they (Westerners) fail to achieve their objectives.
“The bullying and meddling efforts by Western states know no boundaries and they say all places must be under their dominance.”
Expediency Council Member Saeed Jalili
“The support extended by those powers which claim to be advocates of democracy to the anti-democracy behaviors shown in Ukraine, Egypt and Bahrain is worrying.”
March 9, 2014 in a meeting with E.U foreign policy chief Catharine Ashton
U.N. Resolution 68/39
Welcoming the continued efforts by the Secretary-General and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and other international and regional organizations to support deescalation of the situation with respect to Ukraine,
Noting that the referendum held in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol on 16 March 2014 was not authorized by Ukraine,
1. Affirms its commitment to the sovereignty, political independence, unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders;
2. Calls upon all States to desist and refrain from actions aimed at the partial or total disruption of the national unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine, including any attempts to modify Ukraine’s borders through the threat or use of force or other unlawful means;
3. Urges all parties to pursue immediately the peaceful resolution of the situation with respect to Ukraine through direct political dialogue, to exercise restraint, to refrain from unilateral actions and inflammatory rhetoric that may increase tensions, and to engage fully with international mediation efforts;
4. Welcomes the efforts of the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and other international and regional organizations to assist Ukraine in protecting the rights of all persons in Ukraine, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities;
5. Underscores that the referendum held in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol on 16 March 2014, having no validity, cannot form the basis for any alteration of the status of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea or of the city of Sevastopol;
6. Calls upon all States, international organizations and specialized agencies not to recognize any alteration of the status of the Autonomous Republic of
Crimea and the city of Sevastopol on the basis of the above-mentioned referendum and to refrain from any action or dealing that might be interpreted as recognizing any such altered status.
Albania, Andorra, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Barbados, Belgium, Benin, Bhutan, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Guinea, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kiribati, Kuwait, Latvia, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Palau, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Samoa, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Somalia, Spain, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States of America
Armenia, Belarus, Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua, North Korea, Russia, Sudan, Syria, Venezuela, Zimbabwe
Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Bangladesh, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, China, Comoros, Djibouti, Dominica, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Fiji, Gabon, Gambia, Guyana, India, Iraq, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Lesotho, Mali, Mauritania, Mongolia, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Nauru, Pakistan, Paraguay, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, São Tomé and Príncipe, Senegal, South Africa, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Zambia
Belize, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Republic of the Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Grenada, Guinea-Bissau, Iran, Israel, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Serbia, Tajikistan, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, United Arab Emirates, Vanuatu, Yemen