UK, US lobby Nepal to vote against Russia at the UNKathmandu likely to go along as the domestic constituency for denouncing the Russian aggression on Ukraine builds.
Hours before crucial voting at the United Nations General Assembly on Russia’s annexation of four regions of Ukraine, Lord Ahmad, Minister of state for the Middle East, South Asia and the United Nations at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office of the United Kingdom, spoke to Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and requested him to vote against the annexation.
Last Tuesday, the Russian parliament had unanimously ratified a legislation to annex the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions of Ukraine.
The virtual meeting between Deuba and Amhad came hours after Russian missile strikes on Monday targeted cities across Ukraine including Kyiv. The Russian strikes have killed at least 11 Ukrainians and injured several, according to media reports.
Speaking to the Post, Sewa Lamsal, Foreign Ministry spokesperson, confirmed the virtual meeting, but refused to divulge details. Sources told the Post that Ahmad was also trying to contact Foreign Minister Narayan Khadka, but his attempts were unsuccessful as Khadka is currently busy electioneering outside the Capital. Ahmad then contacted Prime Minister Deuba himself. The two leaders discussed issues of bilateral and multilateral interests, according to Lamsal.
Similarly, US officials are also trying to contact Nepali officials, reportedly in an attempt to corral support against Russia over Ukraine.
Victoria Jane Nuland, who is currently serving as under secretary of state for political affairs at the US State Department, has been trying to hold virtual talks with Khadka but she has not been successful due to his busy schedule, said officials.
Kathmandu has been under constant pressure from Western countries to take a stand against Russian aggression in Ukraine. With the United States at the forefront, the United Kingdom, the Kathmandu-based European Delegation and countries that are aligned with the democratic bloc are constantly putting pressure on the Deuba government to denounce all kinds of Russian aggression at UN votes in New York, Geneva and other platforms.
“There could be a vote by Tuesday morning or Wednesday evening (Nepali time) at the United Nations General Assembly in New York on the Russian move,” said a foreign ministry official. “We have already communicated our position to our ambassador and permanent representative to the United Nations and in line with our consistent position, we will vote against the Russian aggression.”
There have also been separate calls on the government of Nepal to deplore and condemn the Russian annexation by issuing a statement, but the Nepali side has refused to do so, according to officials. "The UN Charter is clear: Any annexation of a state's territory by another state resulting from the threat or use of force is a violation of the principles of the UN Charter and international law," UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on September 29, a day ahead of a theatrical Kremlin ceremony to incorporate the Ukrainian territories into Russia.
The current resolution, according to some media reports, reiterates the secretary-general's pronouncement and reaffirms member states' commitment to Ukraine's sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity within its internationally-recognized borders. It also clearly condemns Russia's "illegal so-called referenda" and "attempted illegal annexation" and says they are invalid under international law.
Earlier in March, Nepal had voted in favour of a UN resolution on the Ukraine crisis at a rare United Nations General Assembly meeting. Nepal was among the 141 members who voted against Russian invasion of Ukraine. Five voted against. There were 35 abstentions, including India and China, according to the UN. The resolution “deplores in the strongest terms the aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine in violation of Article 2 (4) of the Charter.”
But in another crucial voting in Geneva in April, Nepal was absent when UN members voted to expel Russia from the United Nations Human Rights Council. Nepali officials are a little concerned about the prospect of a ‘secret ballot’ in the general assembly, as demanded by Russia. Russia's ambassador to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, has been lobbying for a secret ballot, arguing that Western lobbying meant that "it may be very difficult if positions are expressed publicly."
During recent discussions at the Prime Minister’s Office, some officials were of the view that Nepal should consider supporting Russia in the event of a secret ballot to mend ties with Moscow, which was miffed with Kathmandu after Nepal voted against the Russian invasion of Ukraine earlier this year.
Now officials have received clear instructions from the highest political level to oppose the annexation and vote against the Russian aggression, the official privy to the development said.