West scrambles to broach North-South divide aggravated by Ukraine war

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NEW YORK - The Western argument to internationally isolate Russia over its Feb 24 invasion of Ukraine has been simple: It breaches the founding charter of the United Nations by violating Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Western leaders are making that case at the annual high-level gathering this week for the UN General Assembly.

"Let us speak plainly. A permanent member of the United Nations Security Council invaded its neighbour, attempted to erase a sovereign state from the map," US President Joe Biden told the assembly.

But as the West vies with Russia for diplomatic influence it is also recognising that some states - particularly in the global South - are concerned about paying the price for being squeezed in the middle of an intense geopolitical rivalry.

Africa is worried about what it means for food security, aid, investment, trade and health. Latin America commodity exporters fret about market access.

"I have come to say that Africa has suffered enough of the burden of history, that it does not want to be the place of a new Cold War but rather a pole of stability and opportunity open to all of its partners," Senegalese President Macky Sall told the gathering.

Ultimately the world wants the war in Ukraine to end. Within a week of Russia's invasion, two-thirds of the 193-member UN General Assembly reprimanded Russia and demanded it withdraw its troops. But as the conflict has dragged on some countries have been reluctant to be seen taking sides.

French President Emmanuel Macron said in an impassioned speech that Western states would work to convince those who sit on the fence to do more to pressure Russia to end the war.

"It is neither revenge against the West, nor opposition of the West against the rest. It is urgent to build a new contract between the North and the South, an effective and respectful contract for food, the climate, biodiversity and education," he said.

To kickstart those efforts, Mr Macron hosted a dinner in New York with eight countries from Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari told the General Assembly that the war in Ukraine would hinder "our capacity to work together to resolve conflicts elsewhere, especially in Africa, the Middle-East and Asia."

He said the war was "making it more difficult to tackle the perennial" UN issues, such as nuclear disarmament, the Rohingya refugees fro...

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