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Still on the fence — SA abstains from UN resolution condemning Russian aggression against Ukraine

Still on the fence — SA abstains from UN resolution condemning Russian aggression against Ukraine
Screens show the recorded vote of member countries as the United Nations General Assembly passes a resolution calling for peace in Ukraine during the 11th Emergency Session of the United Nations at United Nations headquarters in New York, New York on 23 February 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE/Justin Lane)

Pretoria explained that the resolution on the first anniversary of the war would aggravate divisions and not advance peace.

South Africa has once again abstained from a United Nations General Assembly resolution calling on Russia to withdraw its military forces from Ukraine. 

It was the fifth time in a year South Africa had abstained from a General Assembly condemning Russia’s invasion. The General Assembly debated and voted on Thursday, the eve of the first anniversary of the war. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: “SA abstains from UN general assembly resolution demanding Russia pay reparations to Ukraine for war damage

A total of 141 countries voted for the resolution, 32 abstained and seven voted against — Belarus, North Korea, Eritrea, Mali, Nicaragua, Russia and Syria.

Of the five BRICS bloc nations, South Africa, China and India abstained, Russia voted against and Brazil voted for the resolution.

Watch how countries voted



Thirty African nations also voted for the resolution, Eritrea and Mali voted against and 15 abstained. Seven African countries did not vote at all. 

The resolution repeated the General Assembly’s previous demand that Russia “immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces from the territory of Ukraine” and called for a cessation of hostilities.

Ukraine war

People cross a destroyed bridge as they flee from the frontline town of Irpin, Kyiv region, Ukraine, on 7 March 2022. Russian troops entered Ukrainian territory on 24 February 2022, starting a conflict that has provoked destruction and a humanitarian crisis. One year on, fighting continues in many parts of the country. (Photo: EPA-EFE/Roman Pilipey)

It also urged UN member states to cooperate in addressing the global impacts of the war on food security, energy, finance, the environment and nuclear security and safety. 

The resolution reaffirmed the General Assembly’s commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity, and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders, extending to its territorial waters.

And it emphasised the need to ensure accountability for the most serious crimes under international law committed in Ukraine through independent national or international investigations and prosecutions to ensure justice for all victims and the prevention of future crimes.

Read more in Daily Maverick:Abstaining in absentia — SADC may have a common non-alignment position on Ukraine

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In its explanation of the vote, South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation suggested that it had abstained because the resolution would create further divisions and make peace less likely.

We believe that sovereignty and the territorial integrity of all states should be sacrosanct, and this also applies to Ukraine.”

South Africa also expressed its deep regret that the war in Ukraine, on its first anniversary, “continues to destroy innocent lives and critical infrastructure, as well as displacing millions”. 

“This is a war whose impact has resonated across the globe, affecting the livelihoods of the most vulnerable, and heightening the current debilitating global food, fuel, and finance crisis. “

South Africa was firm in its resolve that urgent actions were needed to end the war. “However, it is a sad indictment of our efforts that we as the international community have been unable to come up with concrete proposals to create the conditions to do so. 

“As South Africa has stated before in this Assembly, diplomacy and dialogue is the only path that will lead to a sustainable and peaceful resolution of the conflict.”

Ukraine war

An armed Ukrainian soldier keeps watch at a damaged energy facility during a visit by the Dutch prime minister, not far from Kyiv, Ukraine, on 17 February 2023, amid Russia’s invasion. In recent months, Russia has carried out waves of attacks targeting Ukrainian energy and other utilities facilities; at times leaving millions of people without light, heating, and water. Russian troops entered Ukraine on 24 February 2022, starting a conflict that has provoked destruction and a humanitarian crisis. (Photo: EPA-EFE/Sergey Dolzhenko)

Pretoria added that the new resolution came amidst an influx of arms to the region, “perpetuating greater acts of violence and increased human suffering. This, together with the threat of nuclear war, makes peace seem less attainable.”

The statement also said that all of the several resolutions adopted by the General Assembly since the war started had created further divisions, making the attainment of people less likely. 

South Africa supported the present resolution’s focus on the principles of the UN Charter and international law. However the resolution “sadly brings us no closer to laying the foundations for a durable peace and bringing an end to the devastation and destruction”. 

“What we need is a firm unequivocal commitment to peace, from all parties. A resolution calling for peace without firm action will ring hollow.” DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Trevor Forbes says:

    It appears the South African Administration is blindly following the counterfactual path trodden by the Kremlin and the Russian media. Say one thing but mean something completely opposite. If the Minister of International Affairs really means “We believe that sovereignty and the territorial integrity of all states should be sacrosanct, and this also applies to Ukraine.”, then South Africa should be insisting that Russia withdraws its forces from Ukraine and provides funds for reconstruction. This would be in line with the majority of the UN General Assembly. By abstaining, the government is merely paying lip service to its comments, which are meaningless, and actually endorsing a member of the Security Council in invading a sovereign country. It seems that Minister Pandor is no more than Putin’s poodle!

  • Peter Doble says:

    The government of this country is beneath contempt. And, sadly for the wonderful people who live here, it will inevitably receive its just rewards.

  • Paddy Ross says:

    I fear that poor Naledi Pandor is but a puppet speaking as instructed to do so by the Csar in the ANC who is her puppet master.

  • Hilary Morris says:

    Disgusting, lying hypocrites! Rather say nothing than pretend to care or have an opinion. You cannot believe in the sovereignty of all nations and NOT condemn an invasion. There is no need for peace talks. Russia must just get out – much as the ANC must GO!

  • Lisbeth Scalabrini says:

    The South African Government, not South Africa, is neutral–ly aligned with Russia.

  • Roelf Pretorius says:

    To abstain actually affirm SA’s stance as non-aligned; the same with China too. One should not confuse the international political sphere with a country’s internal politics, where clear ethic and moral standards exist, driven by common community values, and the extent to which this has been developed often co-incides with the extent to which such a country experienced stability. But in the international sphere it is a matter of every one for itself.

  • Roelf Pretorius says:

    . . . But the comments that the resolution does not assist in bringing peace to the region is unfortunately not accurate and DIRCO should think long and hard about why it is not representing SA values in this regard. Those resolutions are actually doing everything to promote peace, but the fact is that the prospects of peace is close to zero as long as Putin is the President of Russia. He is displaying more and more of the characteristics that Hitler showed just before the start of WWII. Fortunately NATO started to respond more timeously this time, although they (Europe) again took a bit long to react. The truth is that the war will go on as long as Putin (not Russia, but Putin) is undefeated; either Russia itself will have to deal with him, or the rest of the world, which effectively means the free world because China, also being a dictatorship, has some common interests with Putin, will not support moves toward democracy. I think our stance has something to do with China’s stance, and I can understand China’s position because giving Putin emotional support while still supporting Ukraine’s sovereignty (because that is effectively what China is doing at the moment) may just prevent Putin from losing his head completely. But we are a democracy and I am not sure that DIRCO’s remarks are reflecting what South African society believes or wants. Fortunately it seems that more and more African countries are supporting the UN motions; that may be encouraging.

  • Roelf Pretorius says:

    . . . The rest of Africa does not have the reputation of SA as a leading country in diplomacy (not that we have acted like a leader in the last say decade of course, but the reputation comes from more than a century long), so they are more free to show their sentiments. South Africa however, also being part of BRICS, may want to emphasize our non-alignment. But I am not convinced that our government has the right balance. Especially the naval drills with Russia and China sends the wrong signal. Fact is that we are a democracy while both China and Russia are dictatorships. And both are challenging the international rules-based order while the SA Constitution puts us unambigiously on the side of this order. I think SA is only making more problems for ourselves in what the government is doing (the details), because, being a democracy, we have to promote those values, and all that is happening now is that we are giving both China and Russia the wrong impression. In due course they are likely to make more demands and we are going to find it more and more difficult to resist this.

  • Pagani Paganini says:

    I’m very proud of the stance taken by my government on Ukraine war. It’s time “Non-Align Movement” is resuscitated. We must resist to be sucked into this European war.

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