The world’s largest diplomatic meeting began Tuesday in New York under the shadow of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and its effects. The United Nations General Assembly opened its week of general debate on Tuesday at a time of “great danger” for the world, according to António Guterres, UN Secretary General.
The invasion ordered by Vladimir Putin has occupied a central place in the speech of the French president, Emmanuel Macron, who criticized “the return to the era of imperialism and colonies” and has assured that with its offensive on Ukraine, Russia decided to “flatten the on the way to other wars of annexation, today in Europe, but perhaps tomorrow in Africa, Asia or Latin America”.
This Tuesday, after the setbacks suffered on the battlefield, the authorities representing Moscow in the occupied territories Donetsk, Lugansk, Zaporizhia and Kherson have abruptly announced that they will hold ‘referendums’ to join Russia from this Friday until the 27th of September, plans that the Government of Ukraine has already dismissed. Before his speech, Macron assured that such votes “have no legal existence” and that it is “another provocation”. Later, in the United Nations rostrum, he stressed that Russia “must understand now that it cannot impose any will by military means, even if it cynically combines it with false referendums, in bombed and now occupied territories.”
“It is up to the members of the Security Council to say it loud and clear and to the members of the Assembly to support us on the path to peace,” Macron said. The French president insisted that “only an agreement based on international law” will allow peace to be restored in the country, but “no negotiation will be achieved unless Ukraine so sovereignly chooses and unless Russia accepts it in good faith.” ”. “We are aware that a negotiation will only be victorious if Ukraine’s sovereignty is respected, if its security is guaranteed and its territorial integrity is restored.”
The French president also said that “the longer this war lasts, the more threatening it will be for Europe, for the world.” “This is not about choosing a side between east and west, nor between north and south, but it is the responsibility of all those who commit themselves to respect the UN Charter and our most precious asset, peace.”
The French head of state intends to use his two-day visit to New York to convince countries that have remained neutral in the war to side with the West, focusing on India, the Gulf states, Africa and some Latin American states.
During his speech, Macron directly challenged the countries that “remained in a form of neutrality” with respect to the war: “Those who want to imitate the struggle of the non-aligned, refusing to express themselves clearly, are wrong and assume a historical responsibility ”.
“The nonaligned struggle was a struggle for peace,” he said. “Those who remain silent today serve, reluctantly or secretly, with a certain complicity, the cause of a new imperialism, of a contemporary cynicism that is disintegrating our international order, without which peace is not possible.”
Guterres: “We are stuck in a colossal dysfunction”
For the first time since the start of the pandemic, leaders have had to speak in person from the organization’s headquarters in New York. The only exception will be that of the Ukrainian president, Volodímir Zelenski, whose intervention is expected this Wednesday through a pre-recorded video after receiving permission from the General Assembly, which agreed last week with 101 votes in favor. Seven members voted against, including Russia. “There will be important signs of our state,” Zelenski said about his speech.
It is estimated that around 150 heads of state and government will participate. The leaders of Russia and China, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, will send their foreign ministers. US President Joe Biden will speak on Wednesday. His appearance has been delayed due to his trip to London to attend the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II on Monday, which has caused last-minute changes ahead of the high-level meeting.
The war in Ukraine has monopolized several interventions during the first day, in which some thirty leaders have intervened and has been marked in large part by Guterres’ opening speech. Although he has tried to convey hope, his words gave off the image of a dark and turbulent world. “We are stuck in a colossal global dysfunction,” Guterres said. According to him, the international community is not “prepared or willing to face the great and dramatic challenges of our time.”
“These crises threaten the very future of humanity and the fate of our planet,” said the UN chief, who cited the war in Ukraine and the multiplication of conflicts around the world, the climate emergency, the serious situation financial situation of developing countries and setbacks in the objectives for 2030, including the end of extreme poverty.
The UN chief recalled that the war in Ukraine has triggered “widespread destruction with massive violations of human rights and international humanitarian law” and described as “extremely worrying” the discovery of hundreds of graves in Izium, in the Ukrainian region. of Kharkov, after the withdrawal of Russian troops.
Turkey calls for a ‘dignified exit’
For his part, Erdogan took advantage of his speech to exalt Turkey’s role as a mediator in the conflict, and in particular in the agreement sealed last July to unblock grain exports through the Black Sea, which he described as one of the greatest achievements of the UN in recent years. The Turkish president said that the war “will have no winner” and called for the protection of the “territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine” while calling for a “dignified solution” to the conflict. “Together we must find a reasonable, fair and viable diplomatic solution that allows both parties a dignified way out of the crisis.” In an interview broadcast on Monday, Erdogan said that Russia must return the Ukrainian territory it has invaded.
Progress is unlikely to be made at this week’s meeting to end the war in Ukraine. Last week, Guterres made it clear that it would be “naive” to think that “we are close to the possibility of a peace agreement.” “The chances of a peace agreement are minimal, at this point.”
European diplomats hope that the Assembly will recommend the creation of a damage register to document the destruction inflicted by Russian forces, the International Crisis Group explains in a recent report. Guardian reports that Ukraine is campaigning for the assembly to adopt a resolution that would be the basis for the creation of an international compensation mechanism that could lead to the seizure of up to $300 billion of Russian state assets abroad.
The Ukrainian authorities would like to see more resolutions condemning Russia’s human rights abuses, and other aspects of the war, “although UN members doubt they will pass with the huge majorities that are expected.” they saw in March,” says Crisis Group. A few days after the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the General Assembly, where all members have the same votes and there are no vetoes, demanded that Moscow end the offensive by a margin of 141 states to five, with 35 abstentions. . But such a resolution had modest consequences in the real world while in the Security Council, Russia, which has the right to veto, has prevented significant action, the organization recalls.
“Furthermore, since late spring, non-Western diplomats, while disapproving of Russia’s attack, seem increasingly uncomfortable about taking strong positions on the conflict. For the many critics of the UN, the escalation of the war has shown both the impotence of the institution and the pusillanimity of its members. Some of the opponents of Russia – and Ukraine itself – have called for fundamental reforms in the organization,” says the entity.
Unrest among the southern countries
The focus on Ukraine during the General Assembly may raise concerns among developing countries, which are trying to prevent the conflict from overshadowing the threats of famine and the climate crisis. “Other countries have expressed concern that by focusing on Ukraine, we are not paying attention to what is happening in other crises around the world,” said US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield.
As Richard Gowan, UN director at the International Crisis Group, explained to Reuters, many of the meetings underlie “great tension between Western countries and representatives” of the so-called global South in particular. “There is still a lot of unease about issues like the implementation of the COVID-19 vaccine, climate finance… and now food prices. All these issues are opening big gaps between the member states of the UN”.
The EU’s High Representative for Foreign Policy, Josep Borrell, has insisted on the need to talk to other countries about Ukraine. “War-induced high energy and food prices have created a looming financial crisis. Everyone is being affected. And we Europeans need to talk more with the rest of the world”, he said. “We have to see how to counter the Russian narrative that tries to convince people around the world that this problem is being caused by our sanctions, when in fact it is a consequence of the war itself. We will focus primarily on the global consequences of the war in Ukraine, which are spreading throughout the world and have created a very unstable and dangerous situation.”