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UN General Assembly Will Vote on Resolution Urging Lasting Peace in Ukraine

FILE - Video monitors show member nation votes in the United Nations General Assembly in favor of a resolution condemning Russia's illegal referendum in Ukraine, Oct. 12, 2022 at U.N. headquarters.
FILE - Video monitors show member nation votes in the United Nations General Assembly in favor of a resolution condemning Russia's illegal referendum in Ukraine, Oct. 12, 2022 at U.N. headquarters.

The U.N. General Assembly will vote this week on a resolution underscoring the urgency to find a lasting peace in Ukraine, one year after Moscow invaded its neighbor.

The text, drafted by Ukraine in consultation with allies and discussed with interested countries, will be put to a vote at the end of a special emergency session of the assembly that will start Wednesday afternoon and run into Thursday.

It underscores the urgency to find “a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in line with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations” and calls on United Nations members and international organizations to support that effort.

“I think it is striking that it contains more language about the need for peace than some of the previous resolutions,” International Crisis Group’s U.N. Director Richard Gowan told VOA. “I think that is actually really reflecting a sort of an emerging push from countries in the global south, like Brazil and South Africa, which are arguing that there has to be some sort of peace effort.”

The resolution also demands a cessation of hostilities and the withdrawal of Russia’s military forces from Ukrainian territory “within its internationally recognized borders,” in other words, including territories Russia claims to have annexed.

A European diplomat with knowledge of the negotiations said the choice of words — “cessation of hostilities” rather than a “cease-fire” — was deliberate.

“We feel that the term is one that is actually stronger,” the diplomat said. “A cease-fire could be a lull in the hostilities that allows one side to reorganize itself and ready itself for another onslaught.”

A cessation of hostilities refers to a more permanent arrangement that goes beyond just silencing the guns, which the diplomat said could lay the groundwork for an eventual diplomatic solution.

More than 60 countries have signed on to co-sponsor the resolution, which is not legally binding but carries the moral weight of the international community. Ukraine and its allies hope to get an overwhelming majority of the 193-member states’ votes. (Only 191 member states will be eligible to vote. Lebanon and Venezuela are in deep arrears on their dues to the organization and have temporarily lost their right to vote).

Resolutions over the past year condemning Russia’s invasion, and later its attempted annexation of parts of Ukraine, received strong support with 141 and 143 countries, respectively, condemning and rejecting these moves, and only a handful supporting Moscow. Diplomats say they hope to do as well with this text, signaling consistent international support for Kyiv.

But eventually getting Moscow to talk peace will be difficult.

Russian ambassador Vassily Nebenzia called a meeting in the U.N. Security Council on Friday to discuss “lessons learned” from the Minsk agreements, which were intended to de-escalate tensions between the neighbors eight years ago, but obviously failed.

He said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy came to power on promises of peace and dialogue, but instead “created a neo-Nazi nationalist beehive at our borders.”

Nebenzia expressed no confidence in the U.N. secretary-general, who the General Assembly resolution expresses “strong support” for promoting an end to the conflict, accusing him of taking an “ostrich position” — echoing Western criticism of Moscow and never criticizing Kyiv.

“Today, many are saying that the U.N. must be an intermediary between Russia and Ukraine,” Nebenzia told the council. “Taking into account what I just said, do you think we can trust such mediation? What are the guarantees that the secretariat will behave differently this time?”

Crisis Group’s Gowan said Russia hopes some large, non-Western countries will call for talks without preconditions — a move that would favor Moscow.

“What the Russians want is for it to look like Ukraine is the country that is blocking these talks, even though there is not really much evidence that Moscow wants to talk in good faith,” Gowan said. “But again, I think the way the resolution has been designed is to sort of show that Ukraine is not ruling out peace talks, even if they are not very likely to come any time soon.”

Diplomats say it is important that the resolution conveys the cost of the war beyond Ukraine and includes language on energy and food security. Next month, the Black Sea Grain Initiative is due for renewal, something the developing world is eager to see continue.

The European diplomat said the resolution sets out “the principles and framework that will inspire our action in the coming months.”

The draft resolution includes language on the need for accountability for war crimes. Ukraine is considering whether to pursue a separate General Assembly resolution later this year on the setting up of a special international tribunal to hold Russia’s leadership accountable for its invasion — the crime of aggression.

The International Criminal Court at The Hague is already investigating potential war crimes and crimes against humanity committed on Ukrainian territory since Russia’s invasion. The U.N. Human Rights Council also created a commission of inquiry that has been mandated to investigate all human rights violations committed in the context of Russia’s invasion. Their second report is due in the coming months.

Wednesday morning, Ukraine’s foreign minister is expected to open a session focused on the human rights situation of prisoners of war and the abduction of Ukrainian children to Russia.

On Friday, the actual one-year mark of Russia’s all-out invasion, several foreign ministers are expected to attend a Security Council meeting at which U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will hold a briefing.

The deadly conflict has displaced more than 6.5 million Ukrainians inside the country, sent nearly 8 million others to seek safety in other countries and left almost 18 million Ukrainians in need of humanitarian assistance.