At the outset, I want to thank you for the initiative to convene this meeting on the issue of terrorist threats to civil aviation, which has become increasingly topical for the entire international community.
I also thank our today’s briefer, Secretary-General of the International Civil Aviation Organization Ms. Fang Liu, for providing an extensive outlook on the topic and the work of the UN and its specialized agencies in this field.
It would be remiss of me not to commend efforts of the United Kingdom, which we appreciate, in preparing the resolution that was adopted today.
Key words — “civil aviation” and “terrorist attacks” — remind me immediately of tragic events of September 11, 2001 that occurred just a few blocks down from here. This heinous crime generated indignation towards its perpetrators and compassion to those who lost their lives. Fifteen years ago, the international community was prompted to take decisive steps in the fight against terrorism and to strengthen security regulations in the civil aviation to reduce terrorist risks in this sphere.
Nevertheless, terrorist threats to air transportation systems, posed especially by such terrorist organizations as ISIL and Al Qaeda, continue to grow. They take different forms, such as terrorist shootings to bring down the aircraft, or smuggling explosives on board the aircraft to be exploded in midair, or hijacking and using the aircraft as an improvised guided cruise missile, or exploiting the airways to move fighters and human or material resources to conflict zones. Among other challenges are also attempts to compromise security at the airports, including cyber-attacks, as well as conventional terrorist attacks in the airports; insider threats; threats of use of improvised explosive devices, man-portable air-defense systems and other surface-to-air missiles against civilian targets on the tarmac, including during their takeoff or landing.
Despite the activities of the ICAO and other relevant organizations dealing with issues of aviation security, there is a persistent need to improve the mechanism of states’ cooperation in this field and to increase their capacity to confront the terrorist threat. Holding today’s meeting at such a high level proves the importance of this issue and the common understanding of the need to improve public confidence in safe air travel.
Airports have long been attractive targets for terrorist groups attempting to cause numerous civilian casualties. Due to importance of air transportation system in ensuring proper functioning of modern societies, its destruction or disruptions of its work are bound to attract a significant level of public attention.
Taking into consideration recent terrorist attacks against airports in Belgium (in March 2016 in Brussels) and Turkey (in June 2016 in Istanbul), provisions concerning protection of such critical infrastructure facilities should be duly reflected in terrorism prevention programs.
States should conduct specialized vulnerability assessments, in collaboration with airport operators and stakeholders, to identify weaknesses, interdependencies, and ways of improving protection of airports against a growing number of diverse threats, both physical and cyber. Close cooperation between relevant state authorities in this field with private operators should also be maintained.
Speaking about the role of the UN Security Council, we believe it should address this problem within the context of its overall activities aimed at countering terrorist threats, by mobilizing international efforts aimed at diminishing a mere possibility of such attacks.
We believe there is an urgent need for the United Nations and its specialized bodies together with the ICAO to develop preventive measures against possible threats as well as to ensure strict and effective international and national controls on import, export, transfer or retransfer and storage of MANPADS and other missile weapons to mitigate associated potential risks.
On July 17, 2014 the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down by terrorists in the sky over the eastern part of Ukraine killing 298 innocent people. This terrible atrocity is a potent reminder of the gravity of threat to the civil aviation from terrorist groups armed with sophisticated weapons.
In this regard, I underscore the need for a full implementation of resolution 2166 (2014), in particular with regard to the Security Council demand to bring to account those responsible for this incident and to cooperate fully with efforts to establish accountability.
As you may recall, Mr President, the last year effort to set up an international tribunal to prosecute those responsible was sabotaged in this Chamber, due to the veto of one permanent member. Such a tribunal, I am confident, would have been our most effective instrument to respond to this heinous crime. Nevertheless, we continue our work with other partner States within the Joint Investigation Team to address this situation and to present options for a mechanism to establish accountability.
The mentioned horrendous crime prompted the ICAO to take several initiatives related to conflict zones, including establishing the Task Force on Risks to Civil Aviation arising from Conflict Zones, setting up the Conflict Zone Information Repository, as well as publishing a detailed guidance on threats posed to commercial flights by surface-to-air missile systems.
We strongly support these ICAO activities and call for enhancement of the global system of information sharing about such threats. It is also imperative that special attention to conflict zones is given in the process of risk assessments during mapping flight routes.
Here I would also like to highlight another important issue. The responsibility for air traffic services in the High Seas over the Simferopol Flight Information Region was delegated to Ukraine by the regional air navigation agreements, as approved by ICAO Council Decision in February 1997. Ukraine faithfully fulfills its responsibilities and provides air traffic services in accordance with the ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices.
Since the illegal occupation of Crimea in April 2014, the Russian Federation started interfering in the international emergency frequency in Air Traffic Service provided by Ukraine. Such actions create serious threats for flights within international airspace over the High Seas and run counter to the Chicago Convention and its Annexes 15 and 11, as well as relevant ICAO regulations in this area.
Having unilaterally resorted to the provision of air navigation services within the Simferopol FIR, the Russian Federation has also violated the UN GA resolution on territorial integrity of Ukraine 262 adopted in March 2014.
It is obvious that publication of aeronautical information by the Russian Federation can be regarded as nothing else but an attempt to legitimize its unlawful activities. We wish to emphasize the importance of strict adherence to the Standard and Recommended Practices of ICAO by all member states without any exceptions, especially in the airspace over the High Seas.
At present, use of explosive devices constitute a significant threat to civil aviation. The urgency of this risk is underlined by a number of incidents in 2015 and 2016 (namely, Metrojet flight 9268 on 31 October 2015 above the Northern Sinai, Daallo Airlines flight 3159 on 2 February 2016 in Mogadishu).
Moreover, modern technologies that allow for production of non-traceable weapons components brings this threat to a new level. It calls for introduction of additional security enhancements at the airports, including screening protocols to reduce the risk of explosives or weapons entering premises of being smuggled on board the aircraft by passengers or facility employees. Information sharing among international partners is another tool to address challenges faced by international civil aviation.
Therefore, we encourage Member States to strengthen sharing agreements with foreign partners and to continue working closely with law enforcement and intelligence community, and competent international organizations, as Interpol, to monitor for watchlisted terrorists.
This also brings us to the issue of stemming the flow of foreign terrorist fighters, by countering their transit in line with UNSC Resolutions 1373, 1624 and 2178, and implementing the Council’s travel bans for terrorists.
We believe that the primary obligation to prevent the movements of FTFs lies primarily with the source countries, which have to spot and stop FTF flows at the earliest stages. We support universal implementation of Advanced Passenger Information and Passenger Name Record data systems throughout the world, as well as an active use of INTERPOL’s Stolen and Lost Travel Document database, to check travelers’ information against current sanctions lists. If duly implemented, these measures can be a classical win-win scenario for governments and airlines.
We call for the ICAO and other relevant international organizations to assist those Member States in need to ensure universal implementation of the above-mentioned standards.
In conclusion, I would like to note that by adopting today’s resolution we have sent a strong message to the international community to focus its efforts on developing new standards of aviation security to confront terrorist threats to civil aviation.
To neutralize these threats effectively we must ensure that our global and national plans to combat the terrorism scourge, including those introduced within the UN, are adaptive and responsive to emerging dangers.
The United Nations, its counterterrorism agencies and bodies, like the Counterterrorism Executive Directorate and the Counterterrorism Implementation Task Force, as well as the ICAO must play an active role in strengthening Member States capacities to achieve the said goal.
Thank you for your attention