The President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, has said the war in Ukraine could have been avoided if NATO had heeded the warnings of some of its leaders.
“The war could have been avoided if NATO had heeded the warnings from among its own leaders and officials over the years that its eastward expansion would lead to greater, not less, instability in the region, ” Mr Ramaphosa said in parliament on Thursday.
He said South Africa aligns with the principle that countries should refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of other states.
He said while it is important to understand and articulate the causes of the conflict, and advocate for peacebuilding measures, “we cannot condone the use of force or violation of international law.”
Mr Ramaphosa, however, said measures, such as severe sanctions may prolong and intensify the conflict.
The conflict, according to him, demonstrates the need for a “multilateral approach to issues of peace and security” and also demonstrates “the weaknesses in the structure, practices and architecture of the United Nations.”
Mr Ramaphosa said the UN Security Council should be overhauled because it does not reflect current realities.
“There is a tendency for the most powerful countries to use their positions as permanent UN Security Council members to serve their national interests rather than the interests of global peace and stability,” he said.
Mr Ramaphosa said his country will continue to advocate for conditions that will lead to durable resolution rather than adopt an adversarial position as many expect it to.
“While there are people within our country and elsewhere that want South Africa to adopt a more adversarial position, our position seeks to contribute to the creation of conditions that make the achievement of a durable resolution of the conflict possible.”
He called for the revitalisation of the Non-Aligned Movement, “to ensure that countries that are not part of the hegemonic contests between the big powers can work together to build peace across the globe.”
“We align ourselves with the calls, led by the UN Secretary-General, Mr Antonio Guterres, for de-escalation, dialogue and a return to diplomacy, ” he said, adding that South Africa will support genuine multilateral efforts to end the conflict and achieve lasting peace.
Al Jazeera reported Mr Ramaphosa saying Mr Putin had assured him personally that negotiations were making progress. He said he had not yet talked with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy but wanted to.
On Friday, Mr Ramaphosa said South Africa had been asked to mediate in the Russia-Ukraine conflict. He did not say who had asked him to intervene.
Russia on February 24 attacked Ukraine in what it called a ‘special operation’ to ‘denazify’ the Eastern European country.
The nearly one month old war has left 847 civilians dead and 1,399 injured, according to the UN human rights office (OHCHR).
As of March 16, the UN migration agency estimates, nearly 6.5 million people have been displaced inside Ukraine, in addition to the 3.2 million refugees who have already fled the country.
The estimates from the International Organisation for Migration suggests that more people may be displaced in Ukraine than the 13 million displaced in Syria during the war there.
Chiamaka Okafor is a reporter at Premium Times in partnership with Report for the World, which matches local newsrooms with talented emerging journalists to report on under-covered issues around the globe.
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