Zuma speaks out at UN

2011-09-22 07:07

New York – President Jacob Zuma told the UN that the world body is running the risk of becoming a weapon in the hands of powerful countries and he implied that the UN was “taking sides” when it came to resolving conflicts.

South Africa also for the first time officially announced that it would support the bid for statehood by Palestine.

Zuma said the bid is “a decisive step towards achieving lasting peace, economic cooperation and prosperity for the millions of people in the Middle East, and urge that it be viewed favourably”.

Zuma addressed the UN General Assembly, which is the premier event on the UN’s calendar yesterday, and registered his dissatisfaction in the way the Libyan conflict was handled.

“We should defend the impartiality of the UN and promote its principles during conflicts and crisis. The UN should never take sides in conflict,” he said.

“The UN must not allow itself to be used by any country regardless of its history or size. All citizens of the world should feel confident and secure, in the knowledge that the UN is above all interests and only serves those of the global citizenry,” he told the audience, which included UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon.

Previously, the UN has been heavily criticised by South Africa and other African stakeholders for allowing Nato to extend its reach and kill civilians in the Libyan conflict. Nato countries argued this is implicit in the no-fly zone that the UN approved earlier this year.

This is, however, the first time the UN is directly confronted with the criticism of countries like South Africa.

Zuma also repeated the stance of the African Union (AU) that the continental body was sidelined when decisions were taken on how to proceed with the Libyan conflict.

“It is a matter of record now that the AU efforts were never given a chance. Military actions were preferred over peaceful means,” Zuma said.

He also asked for the Nato military campaign in Libya to stop immediately.

The AU and South Africa this week hastily recognized the National Transitional Council (NTC) as the legitimate authority in Libya in the fear of being “left behind” when it came to the rebuilding of Libya.

Already, 20 African countries recognised the rebels bilaterally, but the continent remained steadfast that they first want to see an inclusive government in Libya, that will include Gaddafi loyalists.

Zuma also underscored the need for UN reform, an issue which has been placed on the backburner at this year’s General Assembly.

“All member states have a duty to safeguard the relevance of UN, recent international developments have made more urgent to intensify the reform agenda, particularly UN Security Council and the Bretton Woods institutions,” he said.

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