Wednesday, 02 March 2022

Geneva: South Africa has welcomed the commencement of talks between the Ukraine and Russia amid escalating armed conflict tensions between the two neighbouring eastern European countries.

Ambassador Mathu Joyini, South Africa’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, in a statement said the country hoped that the discussions would lead to “a diplomatic solution that will result in a sustainable political solution”.

“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 the most during and post the conflict.

“It is regrettable that at a time when the world is struggling to emerge from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are seized with a conflict that will further delay the world’s recovery.

“UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, reminded us of this when he stated that the conflict will have a huge impact on the ‘global economy in a moment when we are emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic and so many developing countries need to have space for the recovery’,” said Joyini.

Reforming Security Council

Joyini said the UN was founded after the horrors of the Second World War, with the aim of saving succeeding generations from the scourge of war. It is for this reason, Joyini said, 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 stress that peace is best built through diplomacy and dialogue within the framework of the institutions of global dialogue, especially the United Nations. It is important for all nations to respect and uphold the principles of international law, including international humanitarian law and the provisions of the UN Charter.

“The UN is now in its 76th year of existence and the events of the last two weeks have again reminded us of the urgent need to reform the UN, especially the UN Security Council, which is long overdue. We need a Council free from the legacy of the Cold War so that it can genuinely be the space where the community of nations comes together to resolve conflict and build a more just and peaceful world.”

Joyini said South Africa has always appreciated the value that dialogue has in averting a crisis and de-escalating conflict.

This, she said, is in line with the country’s strong commitment to the peaceful resolution of conflict.

“In this regard, we also urge the Security Council to utilise existing tools at its disposal in support of the pacific settlement of disputes. We also believe that the Good Offices of the UN Secretary-General could make a positive contribution in finding a lasting solution to this conflict and should be utilised,” said Joyini.

She urged all parties to approach the situation with a spirit of compromise, with all sides upholding human rights, and 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, said the Ambassador.

“South Africa continues to support and encourage regional initiatives such as the Minsk Agreements, and we welcome the work of the Normandy Format, the Trilateral Contact Group and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).”

Joyini said the meeting was being held under the Uniting for Peace Formula, which required the General Assembly to meet if, and when, the Security Council is unable to act; however it remains necessary for the Security Council to exercise its responsibility fully in the current situation.

“The situation in the Ukraine should not be allowed to affect negatively other priorities of the international community and the rest of the work of the United Nations.

“We furthermore note with concern that not all situations of conflict have received the same attention. Indeed whilst there is this focus on the Ukraine, long-standing situations that the Security Council is seized with continue without resolution. It is necessary that we devote equal attention to other long-standing conflicts where the UN Charter and human rights are being violated.”

Equal treatment

She said South Africa endorses the statement issued by the African Union Commission expressing concern at the treatment given to African nationals and people of African descent at the borders of Ukraine, some of whom are not allowed to cross and move to safety.

“We urge European countries to take steps to resolve this situation, as all people have a right to cross international borders during times of conflict,” she said.

Meanwhile, Department of International Relations and Cooperation spokesperson, Clayson Monyela, said 28 South African students in the Ukraine had successfully left that country.

He said seven were now safely in Poland, and another 15 in Hungary.

“Four are still being assisted to cross into Poland, (while) two are in a town far from conflict zone (closest to Russia). There’s a plan to assist.” he said on his Twitter account on Tuesday.