The role of developing countries in the Ukraine conflict took center stage on Friday as Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly met with her Norwegian counterpart in Ottawa.
Joly said Canada had pushed China to expand talks with Russia to include Ukraine, while South Africa’s envoy urged Canada to support a settlement of the war instead.
“We need to expand the coalition of states that we engage with,” Joly said on Friday. “It’s a matter of international security.”
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She was speaking at a public discussion on multilateralism with Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt in Ottawa, hosted by the Global Center for Pluralism.
The two briefly touched on the relationship between the two nations, which are both navigating climate change and Indigenous reconciliation. But the event was mainly aimed at getting developing countries to pressure Russia to end its invasion of Ukraine.
To that end, Joly said she had asked Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang to arrange for his country’s President Xi Jinping to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
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China has presented a plan for a political settlement of the conflict, but Joly said she used the meeting of G20 foreign ministers in India this month to push Beijing to broaden its talks beyond just dialogue. with Moscow.
“When I was in Ukraine, what I clearly heard from President Zelenskyy was that he had not spoken to Xi Jinping yet. So when I met my Chinese counterpart, (it was ) clear in my request,” she said.
“If China really wants to play a role in terms of peace talks, well, first of all, there should be a conversation between the two leaders.”
Meanwhile, Huitfeldt acknowledged that developing countries have lamented that the Ukraine crisis has diverted attention and funding from problems that have festered for years.
“I can fully understand their frustration as they are suffering from rising food prices and climate change. So we really need to step up,” she said.
“We take money away from humanitarian crises in other parts of the world, and they see that we are focusing more on Ukraine – which is natural, because it is our neighborhood.”
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Huitfeldt added that Oslo prefers to be a neutral mediator, but Russia’s invasion poses a security risk to Norway, which is why the country waived rules that ban arms exports to Norway. countries in conflict.
She added that many developing countries want a tougher stance on Israel’s illegal settlements in the Palestinian territories, otherwise criticism of Russia’s invasion rings hollow.
“They focus a lot on double standards, which is also understandable,” she said. “We must be very firm on the occupation everywhere.”
The couple took questions from the audience, including South Africa’s High Commissioner to Canada, Rieaz Shaik.
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He praised Canada and Norway for their work to end apartheid in his country, but urged both to end policies he said would prolong the conflict in Ukraine.
“I feel incredibly intimidated sitting with a group of people who are all like-minded. But I think the value is that when you sit down with like-minded people, you have the danger of what it’s called the echo chamber,” he said.
“The vast majority of the world’s population lives in the (global) south and we very much appreciate that you hear our voice when we tell you that we feel voiceless, we feel unheard, we feel ignored, and we urge you to do something about it.
Shaik argued that a negotiated settlement was better than having countries arming both Ukraine and Russia.
“We are on the brink of a catastrophe unprecedented in human history,” he said. “The war, the invasion, must end. But listen to the other point of view that says we can sit around the table and we can resolve this conflict.
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Joly replied that Canada is arming Ukraine because a Russian defeat is “the only way to achieve peace” and deters countries from violating territorial sovereignty. She added that global financial institutions need to be reformed to help developing countries overcome their heavy debts.
Huitfeldt said Norway had attempted a sustained campaign of collaboration with neighboring Russia to promote democracy.
“We have been working closely with Russia for over 30 years to try to create space and more openness within Russia,” she said, but Putin has established himself as a “strong man “authoritarian who has trampled on civil society.
“These men are not really strong, because they cannot accept dissenting voices. So, in fact, they are extremely weak.
The two foreign ministers also held a formal bilateral discussion on the impact on the two countries.
This includes Ottawa’s decision last month to end fish farming licenses in British Columbia’s Discovery Islands, a decision that has divided local Indigenous communities who had partnered with three Norwegian companies to operate salmon farms in fillet.
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Meanwhile, Huitfeldt said she proactively raised a question during a discussion Thursday with Joly and Indigenous leaders in Canada about a conflict in Norway.
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg was arrested this month in Oslo during a protest in support of the indigenous Sami people who argued that wind turbines were disrupting the traditional practice of reindeer herding.
Huitfeldt said he informed indigenous leaders in Ottawa that Norway had formally apologized to the Sami people. “We recognize that the decision to reward licenses to build and operate wind turbines has had a substantial negative impact on their ability to practice their own culture, in violation of human rights,” she said.
Joly said she could not comment on Norway’s domestic issues.
“We shared our own experience of reconciliation. Norway is carrying out very important truth and reconciliation work.
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