Despite mounting pressure by the West to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations on Wednesday delivered a carefully worded speech at the emergency session of the UN General Assembly, calling for de-escalation of tensions and sustained dialogue.
While Ambassador Munir Akram did make a speech at the UNGA, Pakistan abstained from the voting on a resolution that deplored Russia’s military action against Ukraine.
The resolution, which won support from 141 of the 193-member body, came at the end of a rare emergency session of General Assembly called by the Security Council and as Russian forces pounded Ukraine’s cities with air strikes and bombardments, forcing hundreds of thousands of people to flee.
China, India and Bangladesh among other countries also abstained from voting.
In his speech, Ambassador Akram did not condemn Russia for its military action against Ukraine though emphasised: “Pakistan is committed to the fundamental principles of the UN Charter: self-determination of peoples, non-use or threat of use of force, sovereignty and territorial integrity of States, and pacific settlement of disputes.”
Also read: Pakistan urges de-escalation in Russia-Ukraine conflict
He did not mention Russia in his speech where he also stressed that Pakistan upholds the “principle of equal and indivisible security for all” in a statement that appears to refer to the concerns of Russia that led to its military offensive against Ukraine.
Russia had sought guarantees from the West and the US not to expand NATO and avoid conducting military drills at its borders. But the US and its western allies had turned down both demands leading to the collapse of diplomatic efforts.
Ahead of the UN emergency session of the UN General Assembly, first in two decades and seventh overall, Pakistan was asked by members of the European Union, UK, Canada, Australia, Japan and other countries to vote in favour of the resolution against Russia.
Read more: Pakistan urged to vote against Russia’s blitzkrieg at UNGA
But Pakistan resisted the pressure and opted to abstain from voting in order to maintain a fine balance in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
Without explicitly saying, the Pakistani envoy also referred to selective application of UN charter and international law. “These principles must be consistently and universally respected,” Ambassador Akram stressed in an apparent reference to indifferent approach by the western countries towards the plight of Palestinians and Kashmiris.
Nevertheless, Ambassador Akram said Pakistan remained deeply concerned at the recent turn of events. “This reflects a failure of diplomacy,” he said.
He also mentioned that Prime Minister Imran Khan had regretted the latest situation between Russia and Ukraine, and said that Pakistan had hoped that diplomacy could avert military conflict.
“We have since repeatedly stressed the need for de-escalation, renewed negotiations, sustained dialogue, and continuous diplomacy,” he further said in a three-and-half minute speech at the UN General Assembly session.
Also read: Talks to resume today as Russia captures Ukraine's largest city yet
He stressed that all efforts must be made to avoid further escalation of violence and loss of life as well as military, political and economic tensions which can pose an unprecedented threat to international peace and security and global economic stability.
“As consistently underlined by Prime Minister Imran, the developing countries are hit the hardest economically by conflict anywhere,” he said.
He said Pakistan hoped the talks initiated between representatives of the Russian Federation and Ukraine will succeed in bringing about a cessation of hostilities and normalisation of the situation. “A diplomatic solution in accordance with relevant multilateral agreements, international law, and the provisions of the UN Charter is indispensable.”
Pakistan, he said, also supported all efforts to provide humanitarian relief to civilians in the affected areas.
“The Government of Pakistan is most concerned about the safety and welfare of Pakistani citizens and students in Ukraine. The majority of them have been evacuated. Those who remain will be evacuated soonest. We appreciate the cooperation of the Ukrainian authorities as well as the Polish, Romanian and Hungarian governments in this context.”
The session of the UN General Assembly that began on February 28 was the first emergency sitting of the 193-member body in more than two decades and just the seventh in the United Nation's 77-year history.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said after the session began with a minute of silence for the victims of the war that "the fighting in Ukraine must stop" and warned that the bloody fighting that has led more than 500,000 Ukrainians to flee across the country's borders could have dire consequences for the world at large.
Earlier this week, a similar resolution was vetoed in the UN Security Council by Russia, which considers its invasion of Ukraine a "special military operation" launched to defend ethnic Russian residents of regions in eastern Ukraine.