THE UNITED NATIONS — French President Emanuel Macron on Tuesday urged countries not to stay neutral on condemning Russia’s war in Ukraine as he said the invasion of Moscow amounted to a new form of imperialism.
Addressing the United Nations General Assembly of world leaders, Macron also insisted that any negotiations aimed at ending the more than six-month-old war can only succeed “if the sovereignty of the Ukraine is respected, its territory liberated and its security protected”.
The war in Ukraine – and its effects on food prices, fuel costs, Ukrainian nuclear power plants and the broader context of tensions between Russia and the West – looms over the annual gathering of presidents, first ministers, monarchs and other dignitaries. Neither Russia nor Ukraine have yet spoken during the nearly week-long series of speeches.
Macron made war the centerpiece of his speech, arguing that the conflict threatens to usher in a world where “everyone’s security and sovereignty no longer depend on a balance of power, on the strength of alliances, but rather that of armed groups and militias”.
“Who here can defend the idea that the invasion of Ukraine does not justify any sanctions? He asked. “Who among you here can consider that the day when something similar with a more powerful neighbor happens to you, there will be silence from the region, from the world?”
Before him, African leaders have said they do not want their continent to be “the breeding ground for a new cold war” as nations pressure countries around the world to take sides in the conflict.
So far, Africa has remained somewhat neutral vis-à-vis Ukraine. The former Soviet Union supported many African movements that fought to end colonial rule, and Russia’s foreign minister expressed support for reform of the UN Security Council to give countries Africans permanent seats and greater influence.
In two General Assembly resolutions in March, shortly after Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine, some 140 UN member countries deplored Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, called for an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of all Russian forces, and urged the protection of 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’s over, 93-24.
Macron called on UN member countries “to act so that Russia rejects the path of war”, and he said staying out of the question was not an option.
“Those who are silent today are in some way complicit in a cause of a new imperialism, a new order that tramples the current order, and there is no possible peace here”, a- he declared. “The war in Ukraine should not be a conflict that leaves no one indifferent.”
“Nor is it a question of choosing a camp between East and West, between North or South,” insisted the French president. “What we are talking about is the responsibility of everyone – of everyone who pledges to respect the (UN) Charter and our precious common good: peace.”
Macron spoke shortly after the Russian-controlled regions of eastern and southern Ukraine announced their intention to start voting this week to become integral parts of Russia.
Kremlin-backed votes, in territory Russia already controls, are virtually certain to go Moscow’s way. Western leaders who back Ukraine with military and other support called the votes illegitimate.
“Russia has declared war, it has invaded this region, it has bombed it, it has killed people, it has made other people flee, and now it is explaining that in this same region it is going to organize a referendum,” Macron told reporters before his speech. “If it wasn’t tragic, we could laugh.”
Associated Press writer Edith M. Lederer contributed to this report. For more AP coverage of the United Nations General Assembly, visit https://apnews.com/hub/united-nations-general-assembly