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Despite abstaining on UN vote, again, Naledi Pandor insists South Africa not indifferent to Ukraine crisis

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On Thursday, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council, and South Africa abstained on the resolution which received a two-thirds majority

International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor said South Africa is deeply concerned about the continuation of conflict in Ukraine. File Picture: Dumisani Sibeko

INTERNATIONAL Relations and Cooperation Minister, Dr Naledi Pandor says South Africa is not indifferent to what was going on in Ukraine, adding that Pretoria was “deeply concerned” about the continuing conflict, the loss of lives and the deteriorating humanitarian situation.

She was speaking after South Africa abstained from voting on the suspension of Russia from the UN Human Rights Council this week. The members of the United Nations General Assembly voted on America’s initiative to have Russia suspended after allegations of human rights violations in Ukraine.

Pandor said on Friday that South Africa was focused on cessation of hostilities through mediation.

“As a matter of urgency, there must be a cessation of hostilities, which would be the first step in a comprehensive response to the humanitarian crisis. We continue to stress that dialogue, mediation and diplomacy is the only path to end the current conflict,” Pandor told journalists in Pretoria.

The minister said her department “thought it useful” to engage with the media on regarding South Africa’s approach to the conflict in Ukraine to date.

On Thursday, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council. The resolution received a two-thirds majority in the 193-member General Assembly with 93 countries voting in favour, 24 against and 58 abstaining.

South Africa was among the countries that abstained.

This is the third resolution since 2 March 2022 tabled on the Ukraine at the UN General Assembly, on which South Africa abstained.

“As we stated in the General Assembly yesterday, wars end when dialogues begin and wars endure when there is no dialogue. We are witnessing the tectonic shifts in global affairs, particularly since the Russian Federation used force without sanction by the United Nations Security Council in Ukraine on February 24th,” said Pandor.

“The use of United Nations General Assembly votes rather than (the) Security Council is further evidence of these shifts.”

Pandor said global power relations were being realigned in response to the war, and there is volatility in the global economy. These have had a direct impact on South Africa and the developing world.

“South Africa, countries on the continent and several other members of the Global South who are affected by the conflict, have sought to assert their independent, non-aligned views on the matter. We have resisted becoming embroiled in the politics of confrontation and aggression that has been advocated by the powerful countries,” said Pandor.

“Instead, we have promoted peaceful resolution of the conflict through dialogue and negotiation.”

She said this was in keeping with the approach of members of the Non-Alignment Movement (NAM) since its formation in 1961 when developing countries in Africa and Asia, committed themselves to maintaining independent foreign policies and extending the hand of friendship to all countries which reciprocated that friendship.

She said South Africa’s non-aligned position “does not mean that we condone Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine, which has violated international law”.

“South Africa has always opposed violations of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of member states, in keeping with the UN Charter. We have also decried the humanitarian disaster that has resulted from the ongoing military operations and called for the urgent opening of humanitarian corridors and the provision of aid to the civilian population which, as usual, bears the brunt of the suffering when violent confrontation breaks out,” she added.

“We have held these views with respect to Palestine and many other countries where sovereignty is threatened. One of our concerns is the seeming lack of balanced evidence in the United Nations today.”

Pandor called for consistency in the approach of the international community to countries that violate international law.

“When Israel launched sustained offensive military operations against the Gaza strip, killing hundreds, flattening homes, burying civilians under the rubble, and devastating the already dilapidated infrastructure in such a small and densely populated area, the world failed to respond in the same way as it has on Ukraine,” said Pandor.

“That military aggression is not met with sanctions, isolation, and a divestment campaign. We have been strenuously pointing out that current approaches strain relations further.”

Pandor said the international community must focus on finding a sustainable solution, “and that will not be found in isolating one party or bringing it to its knees”.

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