Government maintains its neutral stance on Russia’s war against Ukraine

The South African government is sticking to its guns and maintaining a neutral stance on the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, at the same time accusing the UN Security Council of not upholding its mandate of ensuring international peace and security.

South African this week once again abstained from casting its vote on a UN general assembly vote to suspend Russia from its Human Rights Council for committing atrocities against civilians in Ukraine.

International Relations and Co-operation Minister Naledi Pandor defended the stance in a media briefing on Friday, saying South Africa was not indifferent to the suffering of Ukraine’s citizens.

“An unaligned position doesn’t mean that we condone the military intervention of Russia in Ukraine,” she insisted, adding, however, that the government did not believe the current approach used by the UN general assembly would help end the conflict.

In a statement on South Africa’s decision to abstain, its deputy permanent representative to the UN, Xolisa Mabhongo, said the global body must be “consistent and not selective as this would undermine the credibility of the general assembly and the Human Rights Council”.

In her remarks on Friday, Pandor said there needed to be a consistency in the approach of the international community to all countries that violated 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 well-known dilapidated infrastructure in such a small and densely populated area, the world failed to respond in the same way that it is now responding on Ukraine,” she said.

“We don’t see Palestinians as different from Ukrainians. But the way that the world communityis reacting, suggests that Palestinian lives matter less than the lives of Ukrainians. And this is something that concerns us.”

During an address to the UN national assembly in March, Ramaphosa said South Africa would continue to take a non-adversarial stance by promoting dialogue.

“We insist that there should be mediation, there should be dialogue and there should be negotiation,” he said.

At a conference of heads of mission based in South Africa on Thursday, Ramaphosa said the current “architecture” of the UN Security Council put countries with developing economies at a disadvantage, and needed to be rebuilt.

“We need to curb the unilateral actions of these countries to shape global politics through aggression and other coercive measures like the imposition of unilateral sanctions,” the president said.

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