Notable statements on international law during April 2021

Published: 15 July 2021 Author: Stefan Talmon

Throughout the year, Germany makes numerous statements on international law. Not all these statements form part of a case study presented on GPIL. However, these statements may nevertheless be of interest to international lawyers. We therefore compile these statements on a monthly basis.

6 April 2021

On the 80th anniversary of the German invasion of Greece, the spokesperson of the Greek Foreign Ministry repeated Greece’s claim for reparations for damage caused during the Second World War, saying

“The question remains open until our demands are met. These demands are valid and active, and they will be asserted by any means.”

8 April 2021

At a Security Council media stakeout on climate and security the Permanent Representative of Germany to the United Nations announced that the United States was joining the Group of Friends on Climate and Security which was created in 2019 and is co-chaired by Germany and Nauru. The United States became the 56th member of the Group. The German representative stated:

“On the climate issue in general […], we see this as one of the [big], if not the biggest challenge to mankind and we also recognise that climate change has on a global scale effects on security […].”

8 April 2021

During the Security Council open debate on “Mine action and sustaining peace: Stronger partnerships for better delivery”, the German representative stated:

“Four years after the adoption of UNSC resolution 2365 (2017) explosive ordnance continues to pose a consistent and growing threat to international peace and security, to the safety and security of people living in affected areas, and to potential for sustainable development. […]

That is why, in accordance with resolution 2365 (2017), when planning special political and peacekeeping missions the Security Council needs to consider mine action in a timely manner to prevent and reduce suffering, to enable and sustain peace and sustainable development. Relevant UN personnel must be adequately equipped, informed and trained to this end.

The Security Council should also remind all parties to armed conflicts of their obligations under international humanitarian law, especially their responsibility to protect civilian populations.”

12 April 2021

In an article for the daily Handelsblatt entitled “Europe needs a strategy for the Indo-Pacific”, Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas wrote:

“We are underscoring Germany’s interest in cooperation, open shipping routes and respect for international law – the sanctions against North Korea are a case in point – by dispatching a German Navy vessel to the region and signing up to the agreement on combating piracy in Asia.”

13 April 2021

Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas joined the other G7 foreign ministers in a statement on the situation in Ukraine and Ukraine’s borders with Russia which read in part as follows:

“We […] are deeply concerned by the large ongoing build-up of Russian military forces on Ukraine’s borders and in illegally-annexed Crimea.

These large-scale troop movements, without prior notification, represent threatening and destabilising activities. We call on Russia to cease its provocations and to immediately de-escalate tensions in line with its international obligations. In particular, we call on Russia to uphold the OSCE principles and commitments that it has signed up to on transparency of military movements and to respond to the procedure established under Chapter III of the Vienna Document.

Recalling our last statement of 18 March,[] we reaffirm our unwavering support for the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders. […].”

14 April 2021

The Federal Government was asked for its assessment of the decree of the President of Ukraine of 24 March 2021 implementing the decision of the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine “On the Strategy of de-occupation and reintegration of the temporarily occupied territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol”. The Minister of State at the Federal Foreign Office, Niels Annen, replied:

“The annexation of Crimea by Russia is and remain a fundamental breach of international law. Crimea belongs to Ukraine. The Federal Government has reiterated this several times in the past few weeks, most recently in a joint declaration by the G7 foreign ministers on 18 March 2021.

Together with its European and international partners, the Federal Government responded to the annexation with sanctions against Russia. The Ukrainian decree […] stresses the importance of political and diplomatic means.

The Federal Government supports Ukraine in its goal of reversing Russia’s breach of international law using political means. This would be an important contribution to a global order based on international law and an important contribution to peace in Europe.”

20 April 2021

In a speech to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe:

“It is contrary to our common fundamental values when the sovereignty and integrity of states is called into question and disregarded, as we are seeing in Crimea or Nagorno-Karabakh.”

22 April 2021

During a visit to Pristina, Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas commented on an unofficial diplomatic note circulating in EU channels which suggested that the unresolved national issues of Serbs, Croats and Albanians should be settled by creating a Greater Serbia, a Greater Albania and a Greater Croatia. Foreign Minister Maas rejected a redrawing of borders in the Western Balkans along ethnic lines saying:

“The idea that things can be solved with new lines on a map is not only unrealistic, but it is dangerous to even initiate this discussion. The idea of a shifting of borders is one that the German government vehemently rejects.”

22 April 2021

Germany joined current and former EU Members of the UN Security Council in a statement on the situation in the Middle East which read in part:

“We reiterate our strong opposition to Israel’s settlement policy and our long-standing position that all settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in East Jerusalem, are illegal under international law, constitute an obstacle to peace and threaten to make a two state solution impossible.

We are deeply concerned by the Israeli authorities’ advancement of approval for the construction in Har Homa E. We call on the Israeli government to halt settlement construction and specifically not to proceed with the final approval of the respective plan. Implementation of the plans for Har Homa would effectively cut off East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank and threaten the contiguity of a future Palestinian state.

We are also deeply concerned by the increase of evictions and demolitions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in East Jerusalem. Such unilateral actions are illegal under international humanitarian law and fuel tensions. We call upon the Israeli authorities to cease these activities and provide adequate permits for legal construction and development of Palestinian communities. Potential evictions of Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan in the coming days and weeks are of particular concern, as are recent repeated demolitions and confiscation of items and structures carried out by Israeli authorities at Humsa Al-Bqai’a in the Jordan Valley.”

22 April 2021

During a debate in the Federal Parliament “On the Russian troop movements and the growing danger of an escalation in Eastern Ukraine”, the Minister of State at the Federal Foreign Office, Michael Roth, stated:

“[Alexei] Navalny’s imprisonment also contradicts Russia’s international law obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights and is illegal. Alexei Navalny must be released immediately, as well as the numerous well over 1000 people who were arrested in Russia yesterday during demonstrations for his release and better prison conditions. We will continue to campaign for this, as well as for Russia to fully investigate the serious poison attack on Navalny on Russian soil and finally to bring the perpetrators to justice. The use of chemical weapons is another fundamental violation of international law.”

22 April 2021

In response to a parliamentary question on whether the Federal Government considered the Taiwan Strait to be international waters, the Secretary of State at the Federal Foreign Office, Miguel Berger, stated:

“In the opinion of the Federal Government, the status of all maritime areas is governed by the respective provisions of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. According to the Convention, the territorial sea has a breadth of 12 nautical miles. Everything beyond that area are international waters in which all other States enjoy the freedom of navigation.”

24 April 2021

Three unidentified individuals removed the Moroccan flag from the country’s embassy in Berlin and threw it to the ground. They attempted to replace the Moroccan State symbol with a white flag featuring a written statement but were chased away before being able to do so. There was no police presence at the embassy. The event was filmed and later posted on the internet. Similar actions had taken place in January 2021 at the consulate of the Kingdom in Utrecht and in November 2020 at the Moroccan consulate in Valencia.

26 April 2021

In its Annual Disarmament Report 2020, the Federal Government stated:

“An important element in the broader context of the NPT [Non-Proliferation Treaty] are so-called Negative Security Assurances (NSAs) by which the nuclear weapons States undertake not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons States. […] Negative security guarantees are usually subject to certain restrictions, for example with regard to attacks against the State’s national territory or breaches of NPT provisions. A blatant case of disregard occurred when Russia violated the Budapest Memorandum by annexing Crimea in 2014 in contravention of international law. The Budapest Memorandum was a guarantee of sovereignty and territorial integrity that the nuclear weapons States – including Russia – had given Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus in exchange for renouncing nuclear weapons in 1994.”

30 April 2021

During the regular government press conference, a spokesperson for the Federal Foreign Office took issue with a question referring to Afghanistan being under “occupation”, stating:

“I would like to add something about the term ‘occupation’ that you have used here. I don’t know if you are referring to the Soviet Union’s presence in Afghanistan in the 1980s. In any case, the presence of the German Armed Forces in Afghanistan has nothing to do with an occupation. It began as part of a mission mandated by the UN Security Council and is currently taking place at the request of the elected Afghan Government as part of the NATO training mission Resolute Support.”

30 April 2021

Russia barred eight officials from EU countries and EU officials from entering the country in retaliation for sanctions imposed on Russian officials over alleged human rights violations in March 2021. A Federal Foreign Office spokesperson issued the following statement on Russia’s announcement of sanctions against German and EU officials:

“The German Government most firmly rejects the imposition of entry bans on eight officials of the European Union and individual EU member states, including on the Senior Public Prosecutor in Berlin. These actions by the Russian Federation – unlike the measures taken by the EU in March targeting responsible officials in Russia in connection with severe human rights violations – are baseless. They are contributing to additional, unnecessary strain on relations with Russia.”

Category: International law in general

DOI: 10.17176/20220627-172811-0

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  • Stefan Talmon

    Stefan Talmon is Professor of Public Law, Public International Law and European Union Law, and Director at the Institute of Public International Law at the University of Bonn. He is also a Supernumerary Fellow of St. Anne’s College, Oxford, and practices as a Barrister from Twenty Essex, London. He is the editor of GPIL.

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