Ambassador Jeffrey L. DeLaurentis
Senior Adviser on Security Council Operations
New York, New York
31 October 2022
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you to Mr. Ciacchitano for your information. The United States commends the International Civil Aviation Organization and its fact-finding team for their diligent research and comprehensive analysis of the events of the illegal, forced diversion of Ryanair flight FR4978 at Minsk Airport in May 2021. A country that has bad luck. Attempts have been made to discredit the investigation and ICAO as the actions have been investigated. We encourage those in doubt to read the public report. The report and investigation were handled skillfully and credit to the organization.
When the council discussed this serious threat to international civil aviation last year, some council members claimed it was premature to draw conclusions before ICAO had completed its investigation. Now we have the results: ICAO is finding that the bomb threat against Ryanair flight FR4978 was deliberately false and that the false threat was communicated to flight crews at the behest of senior government officials in Belarus.
We have just heard, no doubt in the ICAO report, that Belarusian authorities fabricated a fake bomb threat to force Flight 4978 to land in Minsk with the intention of detaining an opposition journalist, which violates Belarus’ obligations under international civil treaties. Aviation, known as the Chicago Convention.
This act of unlawful interference put civilians at risk and undermined the fundamental trust between pilots and air traffic controllers in a way that could have broad safety implications for international civil aviation. The United States underscores and the ICAO Assembly has condemned Belarus’ violations of the Chicago Convention, specifically Article 4 prohibiting abuses of civil aviation.
The ICAO Assembly’s show of solidarity in condemning Belarus’ actions sends a strong message that the international community will not stand by for illegal acts in international civil aviation. The conference should also send a clear message that such actions that threaten our skies are unacceptable.
The Lukashenka regime diverted Ryanair Flight 4978 to detain passengers and independent Belarusian journalist Raman Pratasevich and his colleague, Sofia Sapega, in violation of international aviation law, an act of international repression and manipulation of the civil air navigation system. Those responsible will have to face the consequences.
These are not the actions of a responsible international actor. We are united here in the Security Council and throughout the multilateral system, which is charged with safeguarding world peace and security, and we have a responsibility to condemn rulers who flagrantly violate their obligations and advance their own interests. International Peace and Security.
As the representative of Belarus is here today, I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate that the United States calls on Belarus to release Sofia Sapega, to stop the intimidation and harassment of opposition journalist Raman Pratasevych, and to unconditionally release her. More than 1,300 political prisoners are currently in government custody.
Thank you, Mr. President.