Friday

3rd Feb 2023

EU open to 'dialogue' with Putin in UN resolution

  • The UN building in New York. Voting takes place Wednesday (Photo: United Nations Photo)
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The EU is calling for "dialogue" with Russia in a draft United Nations resolution to condemn its annexation of Ukrainian territory.

UN countries and international bodies should support ending the war "through political dialogue, negotiation, mediation and other peaceful means" the latest draft text, dated Friday (7 October) and seen by EUobserver, said.

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  • Russian president Vladimir Putin attacked Western colonialism in his annexation speeech (Photo: kremlin.ru)

An original draft, dated 4 October, had voiced more vague support for international efforts on "de-escalation".

The new text also cut any explicit mention of Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014.

The call for dialogue is controversial after Russian president Vladimir Putin declared in September that he was annexing four more regions in eastern Ukraine.

The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, said Putin's move meant he wanted to settle the war on the battlefield, not via negotiations, and that any new peace talks would merely help Russian forces to regroup.

Some Ukrainian diplomats had also wanted the UN resolution to call out Russia's wider war crimes.

But the EU-drafted text, which is to be debated in New York later on Monday and voted on Wednesday, is designed to be palatable to more Russia-friendly UN members, amid eroding global support for Western views on the war.

"The EU has worked hard to make this a text that non-aligned countries can back," Richard Gowan, from the International Crisis Group, said.

The EU mission in New York had "invited pretty much all UN members, bar Russia, to comment on the [draft] text" over the weekend, he said.

The call for dialogue "was something that a lot of non-Western countries wanted to see in there," Gowan added.

The UN, in March, condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine by 141 votes out of 193, with five against and 38 abstentions.

It voted by 93 against 24, with 58 abstentions, in April to suspend Russia from the UN's Human Rights Council.

The eroding trend was also on show at the United Nations General Assembly in September, when 92 leaders either didn't mention the conflict at all or didn't name Russia as a party, according to ICG research.

Out of the African, Asian, and Latin American speakers who did address the war, 38 called for peace talks, while avoiding harsh criticism of Russia's actions.

If the EU-led resolution got 130 votes on Wednesday that "would be a solid score, given there is quite a bit of Ukraine fatigue out there among UN members", Gowan said.

The latest draft "condemns" Russia's "illegal annexation of Ukraine's regions of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia".

It also calls on Russia to "unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces from the territory of Ukraine".

Its title and wording are meant to appeal to small countries with fragile borders who might one day need UN protection, rather than pushing leaders to take sides in a new Cold War.

"Territorial Integrity of Ukraine: Defending the Principles of the UN Charter", the title says.

EU and Ukrainian diplomats declined to comment on the evolution of the draft text.

For its part, Russia is seeking a secret ballot on Wednesday, to help its friends show support without risking public stigma.

It is also trying to frame the war as resistance to Western neo-colonialism.

The US and EU would put UN leaders under "huge pressure" to fall in line, Russia UN ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said in a letter to his 192 peers last week, seen by Associated Press.

"We also understand that in such circumstances it may be very difficult if positions are expressed publicly," he added.

Meanwhile, Ukraine's former ambassador to the EU, Kostiantyn Yelisieiev, told EUobserver that the UN resolution should be more daring in the global battle of narratives.

It should pledge to bring Russian war criminals to justice, condemn Putin's nuclear threats, and initiate talks on suspending Russia's UN membership, he said.

The draft text was "too balanced" and should "call a spade a spade", he added from Kyiv.

"It's bad when one limits the [UN] reaction to a mere fixation on the crime of annexation. At this point, this is not enough any longer," Yelisieiev said.

"Balancing words and political messages is not the right thing to do, when one sees the world teetering on the edge of WWIII so dangerously," he said.

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