WAR IN EUROPE
SA makes bland statement at UN on invasion of Ukraine, likely to abstain from vote condemning Russia
South Africa delivered a non-committal, even-handed statement on Tuesday in the emergency United Nations General Assembly special session on the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Ambassador Mathu Joyini did not say how South Africa would vote on Wednesday on a resolution to condemn Russia for the invasion of Ukraine and to demand it withdraw its military forces from its neighbour.
But her equivocal statement, which failed to criticise Russia, suggested that Pretoria would probably abstain from the vote.
That would reinforce suggestions that President Ramaphosa has effectively rescinded a statement issued by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation last Thursday which called on Moscow to withdraw and to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.
Ramaphosa was reportedly upset by that statement, apparently cleared personally by International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor. Ramaphosa evidently had to reassure Russian ambassador Ilya Rogachev that Dirco’s statement did not accurately reflect Pretoria’s position.
The rare special emergency session of the General Assembly was called after Russia vetoed a resolution in the UN Security Council condemning its “aggression” against Ukraine.
Under UN rules, the General Assembly may meet to consider a security issue if the Security Council is unable to address it due to a veto by one of its permanent members.
Though the General Assembly does not have the Security Council’s power to enforce its decisions, a successful General Assembly resolution condemning Russia would be politically embarrassing for Moscow.
It would require a two-thirds majority of UN General Assembly members to adopt the resolution.
In her statement, Joyini said South Africa was deeply concerned by the conflict and welcomed the peace talks between Ukraine and Russia.
“South Africa is of the view that this armed conflict, like all others, will result in unnecessary human suffering and destruction with global ramifications. In situations of conflict, the most vulnerable tend to suffer most, during and post the conflict.”
She noted that the “Charter of the United Nations enjoins all member states to settle their disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace, security and justice are not endangered”.
“We urge all parties to approach the situation in a spirit of compromise, with all sides upholding human rights, abiding by their obligations under international law and international humanitarian law.
“A diplomatic solution to the problem should address the security concerns of the parties,” Joyini said.
If South Africa does abstain from the resolution on Wednesday, as this statement suggests, it will bring the country back into line with the other members of the BRICS bloc. BRICS also comprises Brazil, Russia, India and China. None of the other members has so far condemned Russia for the invasion or called for it to withdraw. DM