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People, young and old, came together in Durban to protest against Russia's 'military operation' in Ukraine at the weekend. Picture: SANDILE NDLOVU
People, young and old, came together in Durban to protest against Russia's 'military operation' in Ukraine at the weekend. Picture: SANDILE NDLOVU

President Cyril Ramaphosa has explained SA's decision to abstain from voting on last week’s UN resolution on the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine. 

Writing in his Monday weekly newsletter, Ramaphosa said the resolution did not “foreground the call for meaningful engagement”.

“SA expected that the UN resolution would foremost welcome the commencement of dialogue between the parties and seek to create the conditions for these talks to succeed. Instead, the call for peaceful resolution through political dialogue is relegated to a single sentence close to the conclusion of the final text,” Ramaphosa said.   

SA has been criticised for the move with some suggesting it has chosen the side of the oppressor. Ramaphosa said this has not been the case.

“There have been some who have said that in abstaining from the vote condemning Russia’s military operation in Ukraine, SA has placed itself on the wrong side of history. Yet, SA is firmly on the side of peace at a time when another war is something the world does not need, nor can it afford [it].”

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Ramaphosa said SA, which attained democracy through a negotiated settlement, firmly believes that achieving world peace through negotiation, and not force of arms, is attainable.  

“This is a principle on which we have been consistent since the advent of our democracy, and which remains an important part of our foreign policy orientation,” he said.  

Ramaphosa said the country has not been silent on its position but has since the outbreak of the conflict expressed concern at the effect of the conflict on civilians, arguing that war is not a solution as it leads to suffering.  

“Our own experience with ending apartheid, and our country’s role in mediating conflict elsewhere on the continent, have yielded a number of insights.  

“The first is that even the most seemingly intractable differences can be resolved at the negotiating table. The second is that even as talks may collapse, they can and do resume, as was the case in our own negotiating process. And that even when it seems the parties cannot see eye to eye, breakthroughs can and do happen.

“That we continue to support the call for negotiation and dialogue does not render our commitment to human rights any less.”  

The president expressed dismay at the UN’s inability to discharge its responsibility of maintaining peace and security. This, according to Ramaphosa, gave motivation for the UN Security Council’s reforms to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

“The UN Charter enjoins member states to settle their disputes by peaceful means in the first instance, stating explicitly that parties to any dispute should first seek a solution by negotiation, inquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration and similar mechanisms. Since the outbreak of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, SA’s position has been to affirm this call,” he said.

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