ASEAN foreign ministers have issued a joint statement calling for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine, as Cambodia joined 140 countries and seven bloc members to vote in favour of the UN resolution censuring Russia on its military offensive in the embattled nation.
In a joint press statement on March 3, the bloc’s foreign ministers expressed their concerns about the intensifying gravity of the situation, as well as worsening humanitarian conditions resulting from the ongoing military hostilities in Ukraine.
“We therefore call for an immediate ceasefire or armistice and continuation of political dialogue that would lead to sustainable peace in Ukraine. We underline the importance of a ceasefire in order to create an enabling environment for negotiations to address the current crisis and avoid the continued suffering of innocent people,” read the statement.
“We reiterate our belief that there is still room for peaceful dialogue to prevent the situation from getting out of control, and to halt the growing number of civilian and military losses and casualties, as well as the negative impacts felt worldwide.
“In this regard, ASEAN stands ready to facilitate, in any way possible, peaceful dialogue among the parties concerned.”
Cambodia was among 140 countries to vote ‘yes’ on co-sponsoring the draft resolution of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on March 2 condemning the offensive.
The resolution – which demands that Russia immediately cease the use of force against Ukraine and withdraws its military forces – saw 35 abstentions and five countries voting against, including Russia.
In the 10-nation ASEAN, Cambodia was one of eight member states – including crisis-hit Myanmar – who voted for the resolution, while the Kingdom’s neighbours Laos and Vietnam had abstained.
In a separate statement on March 3 concerning the UNGA vote, the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said: “We believe in dialogue and diplomacy to prevent the situation from getting out of control and to find a peaceful resolution in accordance with international laws and the principles of the UN Charter.
“While understanding the security concerns at stake, Cambodia upholds its firm position that all member states [of the UN] must respect the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of other member states.”
Addressing the UNGA on March 2, Permanent Representative of Cambodia to the UN Ke Sovann said the Kingdom “strongly believed” that long-lasting peace can be achieved only through peaceful dialogue and negotiation.
He called on all parties involved in the war to ensure the protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure, and stressed that access to humanitarian assistance in and around Ukraine must be guaranteed during this “difficult time”.
Following the UNGA draft resolution, several foreign embassies in Cambodia praised the Kingdom for joining the majority vote to denounce the former USSR.
“Excellent to see Cambodia ... join the US and many others in co-sponsoring a UN resolution that most ASEAN nations supported, deploring Russian aggression and demanding an end to its unprovoked war against Ukraine. The world is taking action to hold Russia accountable,” tweeted US ambassador to Cambodia Patrick Murphy.
The French embassy in Phnom Penh said it was also pleased to see its host country sharing a similar “attachment” to the UN Charter, as well as to the principles that founded the international order.
“Let us be united in putting an end to the suffering of the Ukrainian people and find the path to peace!” it said in a Facebook post.
Kin Phea, director of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute, noted that Cambodia’s vote at the UNGA is evidence that the Kingdom does not support the military attack on a smaller nation by a larger one. Rather, Cambodia is interested in seeing a peaceful solution that was based on the rules and mandates of the UN Charter, he said.
“Cambodia doesn’t want to see a situation in which the bigger country is automatically the winner” due to its aggression and military might,” he said.
As the Russia-Ukraine war entered its second week on March 3, Minister of Interior Sar Kheng announced that he had issued instructions to Cambodian authorities and armed forces to ensure the safety of all foreign embassies and their representatives in the Kingdom, as he noted there could be “opportunists” who could “cause trouble” at sites which also included diplomatic residences.
Kheng said the impacts of the war had already been felt in Cambodia through the increase of oil and gas prices.