After hearing Secretary of State Warren Christopher report that Haitians now “enjoy their first respite from terror in three years,” the Security Council voted Thursday to lift all sanctions against Haiti on the day after President Jean-Bertrand Aristide returns to power.
But there were two glaring abstentions--Brazil and Russia.
Brazil abstained as a protest against foreign troops occupying a Latin American country. Russia abstained because it said the Clinton Administration was too hasty in pushing a resolution through the council before Haiti’s military leaders had been removed and Aristide restored.
The Russian abstention was a surprise. But Russian Ambassador Sergei V. Lavrov expressed his displeasure that the council had not even received an assurance from the United States that the Haitian military leaders will leave Haiti. And he noted sharply that, even in the case of South Africa, the council had not lifted sanctions until that country had complied with all U.N. anti-apartheid resolutions.
This prompted U.S. Ambassador Madeleine Albright to insist: “Let me be clear. My government believes that voting today is the right choice. By voting today, we promote the early departure of the coup leaders, the early return of President Aristide, and thus the early restoration of democracy to Haiti.”
The simply worded, relatively short resolution would disband an array of strictures imposed on Haiti to punish its military rulers for refusing to step down in favor of Aristide.
The sanctions, which have crippled Haiti’s economy, include a ban on all trade--which also affects oil shipments--and a halt to all financial transactions.
By a 13-0 vote, with the two abstentions, the council decided that the sanctions will end a minute after midnight EDT “on the day after the return” of Aristide.
Council members acted in the evening even after news reached the United Nations of the bloody grenade attack on Haitians in Port-au-Prince.
Christopher’s optimistic assessment of the situation had been delivered at an extraordinary session of the council in the morning.
Christopher, sitting in the seat usually occupied by Albright, had warned the council that “our courageous troops will face difficult, and sometimes dangerous, situations. There will be setbacks and risks, and we must be ready for them.”
Later, when told of the bloodshed in Haiti, he said to reporters: “We will do everything we can to minimize incidents like that, but we can’t reduce it to zero.”
Five of the seats in the 15-member council were filled by foreign ministers, such as Christopher, during the morning session. The general debate of the General Assembly opened this week, an event that annually attracts scores of presidents, prime ministers and foreign ministers.
The council usually takes advantage of this period to schedule one session with as many foreign ministers as possible.
Christopher’s report on the U.S.-led intervention in Haiti was well received by most members of the council.
But Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim offered a negative assessment that signaled his nation’s later abstention.
“Brazil has taken note that a traumatic military operation was avoided,” he said. “Nevertheless, I should express the concern of my government over the very fact that foreign military forces are deployed in the territory of a Latin American country. This is a disturbing precedent.”
In his report to the council, Christopher referred to the troops in Haiti--now totaling about 19,000 and almost all American--as part of the “multinational coalition” led by the United States.
He reported that the coalition had moved almost 42,000 tons of supplies into Haiti and that “hundreds of coalition personnel are in training in Puerto Rico, on their way to oversee and monitor the police in Haiti.”
He also repeated President Clinton’s promise that the United States “will lift all unilateral sanctions on Haiti, except those targeted on the coup leaders and their named supporters.”
The Clinton Administration had frozen the bank accounts of Haitians in the United States and had stopped all U.S. commercial flights into Haiti.
Christopher said “hundreds of Haitians” have left their detention camps on the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo, Cuba, and returned to Haiti because they are “reassured that they can walk their streets, speak their minds and sleep in their homes without fear.”
He predicted that “with President Aristide’s restoration, many more will want to go back to their homeland.”
Noting that the United States had committed $100 million to a Haitian economic recovery program and is “ready to provide additional aid,” Christopher called on “other nations and the international financial institutions to respond rapidly and generously.”