Western diplomatic missions in Pakistan collectively urged the host country Tuesday to denounce Russia’s invasion on Ukraine and back international calls for Moscow to immediately stop the war.
The statement, signed by ambassadors of 22 countries and the head of the European Union delegation in Islamabad, comes as the United Nations General Assembly is expected to adopt a draft resolution this week condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine and demanding the withdraw of all Russian forces from its territory.
“As heads of missions to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, we urge Pakistan to join us in condemning Russia’s actions and to voice support for upholding the U.N. Charter and the founding principles of international law,” the statement said.
“Standing with our colleagues,” tweeted the U.S. embassy in Islamabad in response to the joint statement.
Islamabad has avoided criticizing the Russian assault on Ukraine and called on both sides to seek a negotiated settlement to the conflict.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was visiting Moscow for official talks on Thursday when President Vladimir Putin ordered troops to invade Ukraine. Islamabad has decided to remain neutral in the General Assembly session under way in New York, according to the local English-language DAWN newspaper.
The Pakistani Foreign Ministry has not immediately responded to journalists’ requests for a reaction to the joint statement nor said whether Islamabad will attend the General Assembly session. But federal Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari criticized as “ironic” the Western-led call for Islamabad to condemn Russia’s actions.
Mazari tweeted that Khan “has stated clearly (ou)r position that we do not support use of mly (military) force to settle conflicts but u cannot adhere to Charter & IL (international law) selectively as has been done by the powerful for decades.”
She continued, “So let's also see condemnation of ongoing Indian & Israeli violations of UN Charter & IL. As the UN SG had stated the UN Charter is "not an a la carte menu" but sadly the powerful have all been using the Charter exactly as such.”
The emergency General Assembly meeting was convened after Moscow vetoed a resolution in the 15-member Security Council on Friday that would have deplored the Russian aggression. China, India and the United Arab Emirates abstained from voting on the U.N. Security Council resolution. No country has veto power in the 193-member General Assembly.
The envoys who signed Tuesday’s joint statement represent countries that are Pakistan’s major development partners. They include France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Poland, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia.
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian ambassador to Pakistan, Markian Chouchak, also appealed for Islamabad to condemn the Russian attack.
“We hope that Pakistan will oppose this war, will take meaningful steps to force Russia to end its military aggression,” Chouchak told a news conference in Islamabad.
“We believe that unless there is a full-fledged international response to the Russian war aggression, the situation will only get worse in the event of a neutral stance,” the ambassador said.
Prime Minister Khan’s office said in a statement issued after his three-hour meeting at the Kremlin last week that he “regretted the latest situation between Russia and Ukraine” and said Pakistan “had hoped diplomacy could avert a military conflict.” He also stressed the need for settling disputes through dialogue and diplomacy.
The Pakistani leader has repeatedly said that his country is seeking balanced ties with major world powers and would not become part of any global bloc politics.
On Monday, Khan defended his trip to Moscow, the first by a Pakistani prime minister in 23 years. He said in an address to the nation that his predecessors’ “wrong foreign policy” of siding with the U.S.-led Western war on terrorism in Afghanistan had cost 80,000 Pakistani lives and about $150 billion in economic losses.
"The most embarrassing part was that a country was fighting in support of a country that was bombing it,” Khan said in an address to the nation, referring to U.S. drone strikes against suspected militant hideouts in Pakistani areas near the Afghan border.
”My government’s foreign policy is independent, and our visits to China and Russia will prove beneficial for Pakistan in the future,” Khan said in his televised speech.
Russia and Pakistan, once bitter adversaries during the Cold War, have restored ties in recent years. Beijing, both a close ally of Moscow and Islamabad, has invested billions of dollars in Pakistan over the past six years in major infrastructure projects, further cementing bilateral ties.
Pakistan’s frosty relations with the United States, analysts say, have pushed the South Asian nation closer to China and Russia in recent years.
Islamabad’s tensions with Washington stem from allegations that covert support from the Pakistani military helped the Taliban to sustain their insurgency against U.S.-led international forces in neighboring Afghanistan for 20 years and retake power last August. Pakistan rejects those allegations.