(Madrid) Russia was suspended by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) on Wednesday over its invasion of Ukraine, which is deemed to go against the organization’s “values”, we learned from this Madrid-based United Nations agency.
Posted at 6:36 am
Updated at 10:58 am
The decision, which was endorsed by a large majority of the organization’s member states at a general assembly in the Spanish capital, comes into force immediately, a UNWTO spokesman told AFP.
Russia itself announced on Wednesday morning at the opening of debates before the General Assembly that it would withdraw from the agency, which brings together 159 member states, in anticipation of a possible suspension.
According to a person who attended the meeting, the Russian representative at UNWTO later left the meeting and did not participate in the vote.
The Russian Foreign Ministry condemned an “illegitimate” decision, which it said was the result of “massive anti-Russian propaganda”.
“The World Tourism Organization is effectively monopolized by EU countries, who use it for their own interests. With massive anti-Russian propaganda, blackmail and pressure on UNWTO member countries, they are trying to impose a politically motivated decision that we consider illegitimate,” he said.
The UN agency responsible for promoting global tourism announced in early March that it wanted to suspend Russia from its authorities because of the invasion of Ukraine.
Proposed by some twenty countries, including Poland, France and Germany, and endorsed by the WTO Executive Board, this resolution had to be approved by two thirds of the member states in order to enter into force.
“Our statutes are clear: promoting tourism for peace and universal respect for human rights,” UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili of Georgia said on Twitter.
“Only members who comply can become part of the UNWTO,” he continued.
In a statement, Spanish Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto, who chaired the General Assembly session, welcomed the election of member states “in line with the principles” of the UNWTO.
“Putin’s military offensive violates the founding principles of the United Nations and the values that tourism upholds, such as peace, prosperity” and “respect for human rights,” she stressed.
At the beginning of March, the UNWTO, established in Madrid in 1976, “unambiguously” condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and denounced “an obvious violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity” of that country.
“War is never a solution!” Not now and never,” Zurab Pololikashvili stressed in a statement, urging the organization’s members to deliver a “clear and clear” message.
According to UNWTO, this is the first time the organization has come together to suspend one of its members.
At the beginning of April, Russia saw itself excluded from the United Nations Human Rights Council due to the war, and its seat was suspended.
In addition to this eviction, Russia suffered several snubs during elections in UN bodies in mid-April, according to diplomats.
Moscow was notably a candidate for seats on the governing boards of UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) and the UN Women’s Organization. Although Russia should have been selected, candidatures were submitted at the last minute, preventing it from getting those seats.