By Javier Otazu
United Nations, Mar 24 (EFE).- Russia lost a vote in the United Nations for the second straight day, with a large majority of countries in the UN General Assembly voting Thursday for a resolution presented by France and Mexico that demands an immediate end to Russian hostilities in Ukraine and in particular a halt to any attacks on civilians.
The war already has caused 3.6 million refugees to flee Ukraine and left 6.5 million others internally displaced, according to UN figures, in what amounts to the largest movement of people in Europe since World War II.
Of the 193 UN member states, 140 voted in the Assembly in favor of that “humanitarian” resolution. Only five countries cast a “no” vote (Russia, Belarus, Syria, Eritrea and North Korea), while 38 abstained, including China, India, South Africa and Iran.
The results of Thursday’s vote were nearly identical to those on March 2, when 141 countries voted in favor of a resolution that condemned the Russian invasion that began on Feb. 24 and demanded an immediate halt to the aggression.
Russia has sought over the past two weeks to counter Western initiatives and on Wednesday presented a humanitarian resolution of its own that called for protecting civilians and public buildings and letting in aid but did not mention the war nor Moscow’s role as the aggressor.
It was overwhelmingly defeated in the UN Security Council after Russia only received the support of China and the 13 other Council members abstained.
Also Thursday, South Africa presented an alternative to the Franco-Mexican resolution.
That text did not mention Russia, with the South African envoy, Mathu Joyini, arguing that humanitarian matters should not be politicized and that the political reasons for the conflict should be addressed in other forums.
Canada’s ambassador to the UN said of South Africa’s resolution that “we cannot talk about ‘Moby Dick’ without mentioning it is a whale,” while Austria’s envoy noted that his country is neutral but that neutrality does not mean an unwillingness to distinguish between aggressor and victim.
But China’s permanent ambassador to the UN, Zhang Jun, said his country would co-sponsor South Africa’s resolution, which ultimately was not put to a vote.
He added that developing countries in Africa and elsewhere are not parties to the conflict and should be allowed to autonomously make their own foreign policy decisions, a reference to Western countries’ efforts to convince smaller and poorer nations to choose sides in a conflict with global repercussions. EFE