Johannesburg, Mar 4 (PTI): The South African government on Thursday explained why it had abstained from a UN General Assembly vote to reprimand Russia for the belligerent military operation in Ukraine, saying the resolution “does not create an environment conducive for diplomacy, dialogue and mediation.” During an emergency session called by the UN Security Council on Wednesday, 141 out of the 193 members supported the resolution, while 35 members, including South Africa had abstained and five others including Russia, Syria and Belarus had voted against it.
The text of the resolution “deplores Russia’s aggression against Ukraine”. “The resolution that we have considered today does not create an environment conducive for diplomacy, dialogue, and mediation,” the Department of International Relations and Cooperation said in the statement. “For South Africa, the text in its current form could drive a deeper wedge between the parties rather than contributing to a resolution of the conflict,” the statement said, adding that the UN had a responsibility to prevent armed conflict.
“The conflict involves two members of the United Nations in an armed conflict, which this organisation has at its foundation the responsibility to prevent. The UN, therefore, must take decisions and actions that will lead to a constructive outcome conducive to the creation of sustainable peace between the parties,” the statement said.
These comments were in sharp contrast to the South African government’s strongly-worded statement against the Russian offensive issued last week in which it had expressed “dismay” at the prevailing situation in Ukraine and urged Russia to immediately withdraw its forces and underscored the need for a peaceful resolution in line with the United Nations Charter.
On February 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin had launched an all-out attack on Ukraine, while warning other countries that any attempt to interfere with its move would lead to “consequences they had never seen.” “The Republic of South Africa is dismayed at the escalation of the conflict in Ukraine. We regret that the situation has deteriorated despite calls for diplomacy to prevail,” the South African government had said.
“South Africa calls on Russia to immediately withdraw its forces from Ukraine in line with the United Nations Charter, which enjoins all member states to settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice are not endangered,” it added. The South African government’s change of stance came after sources said President Cyril Ramaphosa was unhappy with the initial statement.
It has led to a political firestorm in the country, with opposition parties lambasting it as an “opportunity missed for the country to assert itself on the global stage.” Thursday’s statement had said that the UN resolution should have welcomed the commencement of negotiations between the parties. The role of the Security Council as well as the Good Offices of the UN Secretary-General could have been given more prominence in the resolution, it added.
“South Africa would have also preferred an open and transparent process to negotiate the resolution. This would have allowed all of us, as equal members of the Assembly, to present our views and ideally reach a level of understanding before the text was tabled,” the statement said, while opining that the Emergency Special Session of the General Assembly was being held after the failure of the Security Council to address the matter.
“As member states of the organisation committed to global peace and development, we must continue to work together to promote peace. “Gestures that merely create the impression of promoting peace without meaningful action will not assist, it added.
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