US pushes to reform UN veto rules over Russia’s actions in Ukraine, Georgia and Syria

The UN's top five powers may be less likely to cast vetoes if they have to explain after

A UN Security Council meeting on Ukraine on Monday. Reuters
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The US announced plans on Tuesday to overhaul UN rules so that Russia and other permanent Security Council members would have to account for themselves after using their special powers of veto.

Washington’s UN envoy Linda Thomas-Greenfield said she had joined a Liechtenstein-led group of members to propose a resolution in the 193-nation UN General Assembly to curb overuse of the veto in the 15-member council.

“This innovative measure would automatically convene a meeting of the General Assembly after a veto has been cast,” Ms Thomas-Greenfield said.

The veto — which is available to the US, Russia, Britain, France and China — is a “sober and solemn responsibility that must be respected”, she said.

Those who use it “should be prepared to explain why”.

Ms Thomas-Greenfield condemned Russia’s “shameful pattern of abusing its veto privilege” over the past decades to avert action over activities in Georgia, Syria and Ukraine, and over the shooting down of Flight MH-17 over Ukraine.

The US also frequently uses vetoes, often in support of its ally Israel.

Liechtenstein’s UN mission posted on social media that its draft was backed by 38 nations and would be put to the assembly next week.

Passing it would be a “meaningful step to empower the GA and strengthen multilateralism”, the mission said.

Richard Gowan, an analyst on UN issues for the International Crisis Group think tank, said the effort might not achieve any significant changes, as those with the power of veto were well versed in explaining their reasoning in UN meetings.

“It is a good initiative but veto diplomacy is more complex than it first seems,” Mr Gowan said.

The General Assembly has voted to take action against Russia three times since it invaded Ukraine on February 24, most recently to remove Moscow from the UN Human Rights Council.

Updated: April 12, 2022, 9:20 PM