Sat. Oct 1st, 2022

The UN General Assembly voted Friday to allow Ukraine’s president to deliver a pre-recorded address to a gathering of world leaders next week because of his need to deal with Russia’s invasion, making an exception to the requirement that all leaders speak in person.

The 193-member world body approved Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s virtual address by 101 votes to 7 with 19 abstentions, including China. The seven countries that voted against were Belarus, Cuba, Eritrea, Nicaragua, North Korea, Russia and Syria.

The assembly first voted on an amendment put forward by Belarus, a close ally of Russia, that would have allowed any leader who faces exceptional hardship and is unable to attend to deliver a pre-recorded address. It was defeated with 23 to 67 votes and 27 abstentions.

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The document that was approved expresses concern that leaders of “peace-loving” sovereign UN nations cannot participate in person “for reasons beyond their control due to ongoing foreign invasion, aggression, military hostilities that do not permit safe departure and return to their countries, or the need to carry out of their duties and functions of national defense and security.”

The document, which was proposed by Ukraine and had more than 50 co-sponsors, allows Zelensky to submit a pre-recorded statement to be played in the General Assembly hall. It is emphasized that this will not set a precedent for future high-level parliamentary meetings.

Ukrainian Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya expressed his satisfaction that the assembly will have the opportunity to hear directly from Zelensky “about how he sees the end of this war and how he assesses the impact of this war on global issues, and especially on the United Nations.”

In an interview with The Associated Press, he expressed gratitude that 101 UN member states had given such strong support to Zelensky’s hearing, saying it was “pathetic” that Russia had gathered only six other countries to oppose his speech.

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Kyslytsya said Zelenskyy was scheduled to address the assembly on Wednesday afternoon and there was no reason to change that.

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The document refers to a General Assembly resolution adopted in an extraordinary emergency session on March 2 – six days after Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine – demanding an immediate halt to Moscow’s offensive and the withdrawal of all Russian troops. The vote on the resolution entitled “Aggression against Ukraine” was 141-5 with 35 abstentions.

British adviser Philip Reed told the assembly before the vote that the reason it was needed was “because Russia has invaded its neighbor and because of that the president of Ukraine cannot travel to New York for the general debate”, the official name of the high-level meeting. .

Nicaragua’s representative, whom her mission declined to identify, said the proposed decision “reflects a clear trend toward exceptionalism” and violates the UN Charter’s principle of “sovereign equality of all members.” He called on members to oppose the proposal and avoid “double standards” and “selfish interests”.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual meeting of world leaders at the General Assembly was virtual in 2020 and hybrid in 2021. But this year, the assembly decided that all speeches must be in person.

© 2022 The Canadian Press

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