Statement by the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Dr Naledi Pandor, during the Media Briefing on the Russia / Ukraine Conflict, 08 April 2022
Members of the media,
We thought it useful for us to engage with you on South Africa’s approach to the conflict in Ukraine to date.
Yesterday, 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 abstained on the resolution.
This is the third resolution since 2 March 2022 tabled on Ukraine at the UN General Assembly, on which South Africa abstained.
South Africa is not indifferent to what is going on in Ukraine. We are deeply concerned about the continuing conflict, the loss of lives and the deteriorating humanitarian situation.
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. 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.
The use of United Nations General Assembly votes rather than Security Council is further evidence of these shifts.
Global power relations are 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. Instead, we have promoted peaceful resolution of the conflict through dialogue and negotiation.
This is 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.
This was a way to balance their national interests when their priority was to maintain robust trade relations with a plethora of countries across the political divide of the Cold War. This approach is as valid today as it was then. Our 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.
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.
There needs to be 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.
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.
The international community must focus on finding a sustainable solution. It will not be found in isolating one party or bringing it to its knees. We do not want to go down the route following the Treaty of Versailles.
Constructive solutions focused on addressing the humanitarian situation and promoting peaceful dialogue remains imperative. President Cyril Ramaphosa conveyed to all key stakeholders that South Africa stands ready to support the peaceful resolution of the conflict in Ukraine, with a view to bringing the violence to an end as speedily as possible. We are fully cognisant of the deliberate opposition to our call for peace and negotiations and continue to hold the view that in the end negotiations will end the conflict.
I thank you.
ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION
OR Tambo Building
460 Soutpansberg Road