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article imageFrench envoy Vedrine pushes new UN veto rules

By AFP     Apr 9, 2015 in World

France dispatched ex-foreign minister Hubert Vedrine this week on a fact-finding mission to push for new rules limiting veto use by the UN's five powers.

France launched an initiative in September to persuade the other four Security Council permanent members -- Britain, China, Russia and the United States -- to refrain from using their veto power when action is required to address a mass atrocity.

The idea was welcomed by some 70 non-veto-wielding countries at the United Nations, but discussions on limiting use of the veto have entered complicated terrain with members of the so-called P5.

Russia and China have bristled at the idea of restricting their veto power, but Britain and the United States have shown more openness to the idea.

Vedrine traveled to Washington for talks and met with the UN ambassadors of Britain, China and the United States in New York as well as with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, non-governmental organizations and envoys from India, Japan and other key countries.

"This is an important initiative that would be useful at this time, but the obstacles are real," Vedrine told AFP. "It deserves to be followed through, right to the end."

The push would force the powers to consider the "political cost of the abusive use of the veto in instances dealing with the prevention of mass atrocities," he said.

- 70-year-old veto -

The veto power accorded to the P5 dates back to the UN's foundation but calls for re-thinking its use have mounted as the world body celebrates its 70th anniversary this year.

The French proposal gained traction after Russia and China used their veto power last year to block a resolution asking the International Criminal Court to investigate crimes committed in Syria.

The Security Council holds a vote to impose sanctions on South Sudan's warring factions at the ...
The Security Council holds a vote to impose sanctions on South Sudan's warring factions at the UN on March 3, 2015
Loey Felipe, United Nations/AFP/File

Vedrine, who was foreign minister from 1997 to 2002, is to report to Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on his discussions ahead of a gathering planned in September on the sidelines of the General Assembly.

At that event, France is hoping to present a letter signed by the P5 outlining their commitment to limit the use of the veto through a voluntary pledge.

No changes are planned to the UN charter that grants the five countries the right to veto decisions taken at the 15-member Security Council.

Over the past decades, the United States has resorted to its veto power more than any other permanent Security Council member.

In its annual report this year, Amnesty International slammed veto holders in the Security Council for prompting their interests at the expense of the protection of civilians in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere.

Amnesty argued that if the P5 agree to give up their veto right in some cases, this would give the United Nations a better chance of saving civilian lives in conflict.

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