20 September 2022

No nation can stay indifferent on Ukraine war, Macron says

20 September 2022

French president Emanuel Macron has told countries not to stay neutral about condemning Russia’s war in Ukraine as he declared that Moscow’s invasion amounts to a new form of imperialism.

The war in Ukraine — and its effects on food prices, fuel costs, Ukrainian nuclear power plants, and the larger context of tensions between Russia and the West — is looming over the annual gathering of presidents, prime ministers, monarchs and other dignitaries.

Neither Russia nor Ukraine has yet had its turn to speak during the nearly week-long series of speeches.

President of France Emmanuel Macron addresses the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly (Mary Altaffer/AP) (AP)

Mr Macron made the war the centrepiece of his speech, arguing that the conflict threatens to usher in a world where “the security and sovereignty of everyone no longer depends on a balance of strength, on the strength of alliances, but rather that of armed groups and militias”.

“Who here can defend the idea that the invasion of Ukraine justifies no sanction?” he asked.

“Who of you here can consider that the day when something similar with a more powerful neighbour happens to you, there’ll be silence from the region, from the world?”

In two General Assembly resolutions in March, soon after Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine, about 140 of the UN’s member nations overwhelming deplored Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, called for an immediate cease-fire and withdrawal of all Russian forces, and urged protection for millions of civilians.

But more than 30 countries abstained, including China, India and South Africa.

On April 7, some 58 nations abstained from voting on a measure calling for Russia’s suspension from the Human Rights Council. It passed, 93-24.

Mr Macron called on the United Nations’ member countries “to act so that Russia rejects the path of war,” and he said that staying out of the matter is not an option.

“Those who are keeping silent today actually are, in a way, complicit with a cause of a new imperialism, a new order that is trampling over the current order, and there’s no peace possible here,” he said.

“The war in Ukraine must not be a conflict that leaves anyone indifferent.”

“We’re not talking about choosing a camp here between the East and the West, between the North or the South, either,” the French president insisted.

“What we’re talking about is everybody’s responsibility — everybody who’s committed to the respect of the (UN) Charter and our common, precious good: peace.”

Mr Macron spoke shortly after Russian-controlled regions of eastern and southern Ukraine announced plans to start voting this week to become integral parts of Russia.

The Kremlin-backed votes, in territory Russia already controls, are all but certain to go Moscow’s way. Western leaders who are backing Kyiv with military and other support have dismissed the votes as illegitimate.

“Russia declared war, it invaded this region, it bombed it, it killed people, it made other people flee, and now it explains that, in this same region, it is going to organise a referendum,” Mr Macron told reporters before his speech. “If this were not tragic, we could laugh.”

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