Notable statements on international law during July 2021

Published 07 March 2023 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.

1 July 2021

Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas met his Polish counterpart in Warsaw. During a joint press conference the Polish Foreign Minister said that the issue of war reparations for the destruction and loss of life caused by Germany during World War II remained on the table. Foreign Minister Maas responded by saying:

“The reparations issue is closed from the legal and political perspective.”

5 July 2021

In response to a parliamentary question on why Turkey and Israel had not yet ratified the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the Federal Government stated:

“Turkey has not ratified the Convention on the Law of the Sea, in particular because of the special geographic features of the Aegean Sea. The Federal Government does not have any information of its own regarding Israel as far as the question is concerned.”

6 July 2021

Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas joined his counterparts from France and the United Kingdom in a statement on Iran which read in part:

“We … note with grave concern the latest report by the IAEA confirming that Iran has taken steps in the production of enriched uranium metal. This is a serious violation of Iran’s commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA). Iran has no credible civilian need for uranium metal R&D and production, which are a key step in the development of a nuclear weapon.

This further step in Iran’s escalation of its nuclear violations is all the more concerning at a time when no date has been set for the continuation of the negotiations in Vienna on a return to the JCPoA. This also takes place in the context of Iran having significantly curtailed IAEA accesses through withdrawing from JCPOA agreed monitoring arrangements and ceasing application of the Additional Protocol.

We strongly urge Iran to halt all activities in violation of the JCPOA, without delay and to return to the negotiations in Vienna with a view to bringing them to a swift conclusion.”

7 July 2021

In an interview with Arms Control Association, the Commissioner for Disarmament and Arms Control at the Federal Foreign Office, Susanne Baumann, stated:

“[T]he CWC [Chemical Weapons Convention] is not only about banning the use of chemical weapons in international conflicts. On the contrary, the CWC is based on the principle that the use of chemical weapons anywhere, by anyone, and under any circumstances constitutes a violation of international law. …

[T]he recent cases of chemical weapons use clearly show that the international community is not willing to accept the erosion of the CWC. Within the OPCW [Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons] framework, a number of new mechanisms have been established in order to clarify the circumstances of the chemical attacks in Syria and to attribute responsibility. … The OPCW became the central player on the Syrian file because Russia vetoed several decisions at the UN Security Council that would have allowed further clarification and investigation into the issue of responsibility for the attacks. As a consequence, a growing majority of OPCW state-parties supported the creation the OPCW’s own investigative instruments.

With the new mechanisms, the OPCW has successfully started not only to determine whether, when, and where chemical weapons were used in Syria, but also, based on reports of the Investigation and Identification Team (IIT), to identify the guilty parties. Given the circumstances, that is an almost revolutionary step forward for the CWC and, in more general terms, for the international rules-based order. …

The OPCW has investigative mechanisms at its disposal but no judicial means to penalize individuals. To this end, states-parties are required by the CWC to put effective national legislation in place, explicitly penalizing any activity banned by the CWC. Roughly two-thirds of OPCW states-parties, including Germany, have translated the CWC into their respective national legislation. …

The decision of the conference of states-parties in 2018 already foresees support by the OPCW for investigations of chemical weapons use beyond Syria. The director-general, if requested by a state-party to investigate possible chemical weapons use on its territory, can provide technical expertise to identify those who were perpetrators, organizers, sponsors, or otherwise involved in the use of chemicals as weapons. Hence, there is a path to broadening the mandate of the IIT for other cases. It would require further detailing and, first of all, the consent and the cooperation of the state-party concerned.

The IIT plays an essential role because it identifies those responsible for the use of chemical weapons and thus prepares the ground for holding them accountable. …

The OPCW has the necessary instruments and expertise at its disposal to identify guilty parties, including individuals. Yet, it does need the cooperation of the respective state-party to fulfill its mandate. Moving from attribution to judicial accountability remains one of the biggest challenges in fighting the use of chemical weapons.”

8 July 2021

Federal Minister of Defence Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer and her Chinese counterpart held a video conference on the situation in the Indo-Pacific during which the Federal Minister of Defence underlined Germany’s legal position with regard to China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea and reiterated that “Germany considers the UNCLOS arbitral tribunal award of July 2016 to be binding.” She also expressed her expectation that the rules-based international order be maintained, highlighting China’s responsibility.

8 July 2021

In response to a parliamentary question on whether the draft mining code of the International Seabed Authority established adequate rules for commercial deep-sea mining, the Secretary of State at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy Claudia Dörr-Voß stated:

“It is the task of the Federal Government and all member States of the International Seabed Authority to implement on the basis of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea the rules for the protection of the marine environment, which also include the precautionary principle, and on the other hand to do justice to those provisions of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which are aimed at mining the marine mineral resources.”

8 July 2021

In response to a parliamentary question concerning the effect of media reports about war crimes and violations of human rights by the Ethiopian Government in the region of Tigray on the German-Ethiopian development cooperation, the Parliamentary Secretary of State at the Federal  Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development Maria Flachsbarth stated:

“The future conduct of the Ethiopian Government in the Tigray conflict is decisive for the continuation of the reform partnership. In particular, a resolute investigation and processing of human rights violations as well as an improvement of the humanitarian situation are required.

The Federal Government has tied the reform funding promised in 2020 as a financial core element of the reform partnership to political conditions, which include the clarification of human rights violations and steps towards a political solution to the conflict in the Tigray region. Payment will only be made once these conditions are met.”

9 July 2021

On 7 July 2021, Israeli border police demolished the Palestinian village of Khirbet Humsa, located in the northern Jordan Valley. The bulldozers levelled some 27 tent homes in addition to all of the village’s agricultural structures. Israeli forces also seized the remnants of those tents and their residents’ personal belongings, in addition to the community’s water tanks and food parcels. On 9 July 2021, the Director Middle East and North Africa at the Federal Foreign Office commented on the events on Twitter, writing:

“Concerned about further demolitions and confiscations in Khirbet Humsa in the West Bank. Palestinian families with children lost their homes; aid provided by the international community was destroyed. We call on Israel to respect International Humanitarian Law.”

9 July 2021

During the interactive dialogue on the oral update of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on Ukraine and the interim report of the UN Secretary-General on the situation of human rights in Crime at the 47th session of the Human Rights Council, the German representative stated:

“We are deeply concerned by the increased civilian casualties, cases of arbitrary secret and incommunicado detentions, persistent patterns of torture and ill-treatment, including conflict-related sexual violence in an atmosphere of impunity in the self-declared ‘Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republic’. …

We call on all parties to fully comply with their obligations under the Minsk agreements and under international law. …

Furthermore, we remain deeply concerned about the ongoing deterioration of human rights in Crimea and the city of Sevastopol since their illegal annexation by the Russian Federation, particularly regarding the restriction of fundamental freedoms and discrimination against Crimean Tatars by the Russian authorities.

We reiterate Germany’s firm policy of non-recognition of the illegal annexation and occupation of Crimea and Sevastopol, continue to condemn this act of aggression, and remain committed to fully implementing this policy, including through restrictive measures.”

10 July 2021

As a member of the Media Freedom Coalition Germany joined a statement on the forced closure of Hong Kong’s Apple Daily newspaper which read in part:

“The use of the National Security Law to suppress journalism is a serious and negative step which undermines Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and the rights and freedoms of people in Hong Kong, as provided for in the Hong Kong Basic Law and the Sino-British Joint Declaration. …

Freedom of the press has been central to Hong Kong’s success and international reputation over many years.  Hong Kong and mainland Chinese authorities should fully respect and uphold this important right, in line with China’s international legal obligations.”

12 July 2021

The German Embassy in Manila issued a statement on the 5th anniversary of the Final Award in the South China Sea Arbitration which read as follows:

“Today is the 5th Anniversary of the South China Sea Arbitration ruling. It confirmed the relevance of a rules-based international maritime order in the context of increasing globalization and international relations. The entire world benefits from a peaceful, safe and stable South China Sea, an important maritime trade route, where international law including UNCLOS is observed and a rules-based order respected. The ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration is a significant milestone towards that achievement.

5 years have passed since the ruling yet the work for a stable and peaceful Indo-Pacific must continue. Germany remains a committed and responsible partner in this international endeavour. We are confident that the continuation of the negotiations between ASEAN and China will result in a rules-based, co-operative and effective Code of Conduct consistent with UNCLOS in the South China Sea.”


The German Ambassador to the Philippines wrote on Twitter:

“History is what we make happen. Five years ago today, the Philippines wrote history with the Hague Arbitration Court ruling on South China Sea. The rules-based maritime order laid down in UNCLOS ensures international cooperation and stability.”

15 July 2021

Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Joseph R. Biden issued the Washington Declaration in which the two leaders affirmed their commitment to close bilateral cooperation in promoting peace, security, and prosperity around the world. In a passage implicitly directed at China and Russia, it said:

“We commit ourselves to defending an open world. Across the globe, all nations must be free to determine their political futures free from foreign interference, coercion, or domination by outside powers. As two nations whose economies depend on the free transit of goods around the world, we affirm the critical importance of the freedoms of navigation and overflight and other lawful uses of the sea, consistent with international law. This vision is unachievable in a world carved into competing spheres of influence and we will resist attempts to create them, be it through attempts at territorial annexation, control of digital infrastructure, transnational repression, or weaponized energy flows.”

21 July 2021

During a visit to the internationally unrecognised Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Turkish President Erdogan announced the partial reopening of Varosha. The abandoned former seaside resort lies in a demilitarised zone nobody has been allowed to enter since 1974 when Turkey intervened in Cyprus to protect the Turkish Cypriot population after a Greek-instigated coup d’état on the island. A spokesperson for the Federal Foreign Office commented on the Turkish announcement as follows:

“The status of Varosha is the subject of resolutions of the United Nations Security Council. We call on Turkey to abide by all resolutions and to transfer control of the town to the UN mission UNFICYP.”

On the same day, the Secretary of State of the Federal Foreign Office, Miguel Berger, wrote on Twitter:

“The announcement regarding the status of Varosha during [President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan’s visit to Cyprus is incompatible with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions. We call on Turkey to fully comply with the resolutions & contribute positively to the UN  process for a Cyprus settlement.”

In reply to a parliamentary question on 10 August 2021, the Secretary of State at the Federal Foreign Office reiterated this position, stating:

“The Federal Government is working intensively to de-escalate the tense situation in the eastern Mediterranean. She calls on Turkey in particular to refrain from further unilateral provocations, including against the Republic of Cyprus. In the opinion of the Federal Government, the announcement by Turkish President Erdogan and the Turkish Cypriot leader Tatar on the status of Varosha on 20 July 2021 is incompatible with the relevant resolutions of the United Nations (UN) Security Council. The Federal Government has therefore immediately called on the Turkish Government to comply with these resolutions and to play a constructive role in the UN-led process to resolve the Cyprus issue.”

21 July 2021

At the first meeting of the Group of Friends of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Germany’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations  emphasised that “the strength of law and the rules-based order should prevail – not the law of the strongest. This spirit should guide our work in the GoF of UNCLOS.” He also said: “The best way to protect biodiversity on the high seas is to agree on a legally and equally binding instrument.”

The Group of Friends numbers over 100 countries, including China, Russia and the United States.

21 July 2021

Germany and the United States reach an agreement over the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline which is set out in a “Joint Statement of the US and Germany on Support for Ukraine, European Energy Security, and our Climate Goals”. Although not expressly stated in the agreement, the United States will no longer try to prevent the completion of the pipeline by imposing sanctions. Germany, in return, makes substantial financial commitments to Ukraine and pledges to impose sanctions on Russia should the latter use energy as a weapon or commit further aggressive acts against Ukraine. The statement provides in the relevant part:

“The United States and Germany are steadfast in their support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, independence, and chosen European path. We recommit ourselves today to push back against Russian aggression and malign activities in Ukraine and beyond. […]

The United States and Germany are united in their determination to hold Russia to account for its aggression and malign activities by imposing costs via sanctions and other tools. We commit to working together via the newly established U.S.-EU High Level Dialogue on Russia, and via bilateral channels, to ensure the United States and the EU remain prepared, including with appropriate tools and mechanisms, to respond together to Russian aggression and malign activities, including Russian efforts to use energy as a weapon. Should Russia attempt to use energy as a weapon or commit further aggressive acts against Ukraine, Germany will take action at the national level and press for effective measures at the European level, including sanctions, to limit Russian export capabilities to Europe in the energy sector, including gas, and/or in other economically relevant sectors. This commitment is designed to ensure that Russia will not misuse any pipeline, including Nord Stream 2, to achieve aggressive political ends by using energy as a weapon.

We support the energy security of Ukraine and Central and Eastern Europe, including the key principles enshrined in the EU’s Third Energy Package of diversity and security of supply. Germany underscores that it will abide by both the letter and the spirit of the Third Energy Package with respect to Nord Stream 2 under German jurisdiction to ensure unbundling and third-party access. This includes an assessment of any risks posed by certification of the project operator to the security of energy supply of the EU.

The United States and Germany are united in their belief that it is in Ukraine’s and Europe’s interest for gas transit via Ukraine to continue beyond 2024. In line with this belief, Germany commits to utilize all available leverage to facilitate an extension of up to 10 years to Ukraine’s gas Transit agreement with Russia, including appointing a special envoy to support those negotiations, to begin as soon as possible and no later than September 1. The United States commits to fully support these efforts.

… Germany commits to establish and administer a Green Fund for Ukraine to support Ukraine’s energy transition, energy efficiency, and energy security. Germany and the United States will endeavor to promote and support investments of at least $1 billion in the Green Fund for Ukraine, including from third parties such as private-sector entities. Germany will provide an initial donation to the fund of at least $175 million and will work toward extending its commitments in the coming budget years. …

In addition, Germany will continue to support bilateral energy projects with Ukraine, especially in the field of renewables and energy efficiency, as well as coal transition support, including the appointment of a special envoy with dedicated funding of $70 million. Germany is also ready to launch an Ukraine Resilience Package to support Ukraine’s energy security. This will include efforts to safeguard and increase the capacity for reverse flows of gas to Ukraine, with the aim of shielding Ukraine completely from potential future attempts by Russia to cut gas supplies to the country.

The United States and Germany express their strong support for the Three Seas Initiative and its efforts to strengthen infrastructure connectivity and energy security in Central and Eastern Europe. Germany commits to expand its engagement with the initiative with an eye toward financially supporting projects of the Three Seas Initiative in the fields of regional energy security and renewable energy. In addition, Germany will support projects of common interest in the energy sector via the EU Budget, with contributions of up to $1.77 billion in 2021-2027. The United States remains committed to investing in the Three Seas Initiative and continues to encourage concrete investments by members and others.”

Despite the agreement, the United States continued to impose sanctions in connection with Nord Stream 2.

22 July 2021

During her annual summer press conference, Chancellor Angela Markel commented on the international efforts to combat climate change, saying:

“I was very much involved in negotiating the Kyoto Protocol. The ideal procedure for us at the time was that every country in the world agreed upon its reduction targets in a legally binding manner and also deposited them at the international level. However, I had to recognize that at best the Member States of the European Union and very few others that contribute significantly to emissions were prepared to even consider this Kyoto Protocol. I experienced a lot of disappointments back then. Countries have said that they would never deposit [reduction targets] in a legally binding manner and enter into any international legal commitments.”

22 July 2021

Following peace talks held on 17-18 July 2021 between senior leaders of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban in Doha, the special representatives and special envoys of the United States of America, the European Union, France, Germany, Italy, NATO, Norway, and the United Kingdom met in Rome to discuss the situation in Afghanistan and the developments in Afghanistan peace negotiations. At the end of the meeting a communiqué on the situation in Afghanistan and the developments in Afghanistan peace negotiations was issued which read in part:

“We affirm that:

1. Our countries and organizations are committed to a strong partnership with Afghanistan and will be closely monitoring ongoing developments in this new phase of transition with the withdrawal of international forces. …

2. We call on all parties to reduce violence and protect civilians, respecting their obligations under international humanitarian law. We call on the Taliban to end their military offensive, and on both the Islamic Republic and the Taliban to engage meaningfully in the peace process. We reiterate the urgency of reaching a ceasefire to ensure the success of negotiations, and we acknowledge the sacrifices of the Afghan security forces.

3.We reaffirm that there is no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan, we stand by UNSC resolution 2513 (2020), and we do not support any government in Afghanistan imposed through military force.

4.We express our full support to an inclusive Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process with full and meaningful participation of women that leads to a just and durable political settlement. We also highlight five elements of a final settlement that are most critical: (1) inclusive governance; (2) the right to elect political leaders; (3) protections for human rights, including rights of women, youth and minorities; (4) commitments on counter-terrorism, including to ensure that Afghanistan does not again serve as a safe haven for terrorists; and (5) adherence to international law, including international humanitarian law. We emphasize that international support to any future government will depend, at least in part, on adherence to these five elements. …

5. We reiterate that the Taliban and the Islamic Republic must deliver on their commitments (1) to prevent the use of Afghan soil by al Qaeda, Da’esh or other terrorist groups from launching attacks against, or threatening the security of, any other country; and (2) not to host members of these groups nor to allow them to recruit, train, fundraise or transit through Afghanistan.

6. We urge the Taliban to reduce violence, uphold their commitments to protect Afghanistan’s infrastructure, protect civilians and cooperate on humanitarian assistance, particularly as the Afghan people suffer acutely from the effects of COVID-19 and drought, in addition to violence. We call on the Taliban to allow and facilitate, without preconditions and consistent with international humanitarian law, access for delivery of humanitarian aid, to areas under their control. … .”


27 July 2021

In response to parliamentary questions on the Federal Government’s support of Syrian opposition groups, the Federal Government stated:

“In December 2012, the Federal Government recognized the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces (ETILAF) along with 120 other States as the ‘legitimate representative of the Syrian people’.”

Asked whether the Federal Government still considered it appropriate to recognize ETILAF as the only legitimate representative of the Syrian people, the Federal Government avoided a clear answer but stated instead that it continued “to emphatically support the efforts of the United Nations (UN) to find a political solution to the Syrian conflict within the meaning of UN Security Council Resolution 2254.” Concerning contacts with ETILAF, the Federal Government stated:

“The Federal Government maintains regular contact with members of ETILAF.”

“The ETILAF office [in Berlin] is not the premises of a mission within the meaning of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 18 April 1961.”

DOI: 10.17176/20230307-185345-0

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