UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks on the Russia-Ukraine conflict at the General Assembly emergency special session in New York, on February 28, 2022. - The United Nations opened a rare emergency special session of the General Assembly on Monday to discuss Russia's invasion of Ukraine by observing a minute of silence for those killed in the conflict. (Photo by Kena Betancur / AFP)

Pakistan has decided not to participate in the emergency session of the UN General Assembly that began on Monday to discuss the Ukraine crisis.

“Pakistan has decided not to take sides on this issue,” a diplomatic source said. “Islamabad supports a peaceful and negotiated settlement.”

Prime Minister Imran Khan, who visited Moscow on the day Russia invaded Ukraine, defended his decision on Monday, saying that he was there to discuss bilateral issues only.

The General Assembly is expected to wind up its debate on Tuesday and by then representatives of more than 100 countries would have addressed the emergency session. The meeting will decide whether to support a US-sponsored resolution that demands Russia’s immediate withdrawal from Ukraine.

Ukraine’s ambassador to the UN Sergiy Kyslytsya warned the global body that “if Ukraine does not survive, the UN will not survive.”

Polish ambassador Krzysztof Szczerski told the meeting that Pakistani civilians and students were among those thousands of people who were seeking refuge in Poland and the Polish government was sheltering them.

The General Assembly has only held 10 emergency sessions since 1950, in line with a provision widely known as the ‘Uniting for Peace’ resolution.

The resolution gives the assembly the power to take up important matters when the Security Council is unable to act due to differences among its five permanent members.

A General Assembly debate is considered the world body’s second-best option because its resolutions are non-binding, unlike those of the Security Council.

The US, which initiated the debate, first went to the Security Council on Feb. 25, seeking a binding resolution, but Russia vetoed the effort.

As the debate began, UN Secretary-General António Guterres informed the assembly that while Russian strikes were largely targeting Ukrainian military facilities, they had “credible accounts” of non-military targets sustaining heavy damage.

“Enough is enough,” he said. “This escalating violence … is totally unacceptable. Soldiers need to move back to their barracks. Leaders need to move to peace.”

He also emphasized the need to respect “the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine, within its internationally recognized borders.”

Assembly President Abdulla Shahid informed the meeting: “As we convene here in the General Assembly, negotiators from both sides are holding talks in Belarus” to end the crisis that began last week.

Although China and India had abstained from the Feb 25 vote in the Security Council, they participated in Monday’s debate.

China’s Permanent Representative Zhang Jun said China supports the EU, NATO and Russia resuming dialogue including the “legitimate” security concerns of all, including Moscow’s.

Russia defended its decision to invade Ukraine as member states called for ending the war. Russian ambassador Vassily Nebenzia rejected the suggestion that Moscow launched the military operation to protect residents of breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine.


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