David Miliband

Foreign Secretary

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Saturday 12 July, 2008

Mediation or pressure?

The vote at the UN yesterday on Zimbabwe was not a North/South split - after all Burkino Faso voted for the resolution. But it did reveal, in the use of the veto by Russia and China, two different ways of thinking about the exercise of responsibility in the modern world.

The argument at one level was about whether to give mediation "longer". But how much longer? And how much more suffering in the interim?

But there is a more fundamental point - or two actually. First, since when does pressure on a regime that has been flagrant in its abuse of human rights and democratic standards undermine mediation? Surely it brings home much more clearly that the world is determined to tilt the balance away from a government that has forfeited international respect? But second, the argument of China and Russia was that the Security Council had no business "interfering" in a national issue. But the crisis in Zimbabwe has gone way beyond that - not least through three million plus refugees caught up in the violence fleeing to South Africa (see above "If your neighbour's house is on fire" of 8 July).

The Russian and Chinese vetoes have shielded Robert Mugabe and 13 of his top supporters from international pressure. Their preferred route of mediation will have the chance to prove itself - too late for too many but no one will be happier than I if I wake up one day soon and find that this route has delivered a government that respects the March 29 election result.

Meanwhile the governments of western and other democracies should have no regrets about bringing into the open a vital debate. The alternative is for the threat of veto to mean we all clam up and pretend that there is no disagreement. That is not real diplomacy.


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Why do we even bother engaging with the Russians and Chinese? They clearly have no interest in being responsible partners. Moreover, why do we allow the Russians to run a huge spy operation on British soil at a time when we need every man we have to help combat Islamist terrorism? Surely it's time to boot out a few more Russian "diplomats". It's the only language the Kremlin understands.

Posted by Alexander King on July 13, 2008 at 03:21 AM BST #

At least the people of Zimbabwe, by fair means or otherwise, had the chance to vote for the leader of their country. When are we, the British, going to get the same chance?

Posted by Paul Everest on July 13, 2008 at 09:54 PM BST #

It was quite disheartning to note the veto of China and Russia. Wonder how they would explain their position to the millions of people suffering in Zim? Kindly do remind me again why we are supposed to be excited about the upcoming games in Beijing? Surely the plight of the people of Zim has already tarnished the spirit of unification between the 5 continents. It remains a sad, sad day for all caring for the people of Zim.

Posted by LizevJ on July 14, 2008 at 11:28 AM BST #

Zimbabweans did not expect any support from China even in their position in the UN. China afterall shipped arms to Zimbabwe in April at a time when that was the last thing Zimbabwe needed. Everyone knows the sanctions were aimed at the Mugabe Regime. It is an unfortunate turn of events.

Posted by N Hodges on July 14, 2008 at 04:18 PM BST #

Multilateralism simply cannot work when attempts to do the right thing are thwarted by others; unilateral action by members states is therefore ever more crucial to intervene and solve crises and should always have a place in the diplomatic armoury.

Posted by Charlie on July 15, 2008 at 01:24 AM BST #

Hmm. Interesting. I guess we all know how the Lebanese people when you refused to pass a UNSCR on Israel's invasion. Or indeed the countless times you've sat on the fence or vetoed along with the Americans any UNSCR criticising Israel. Hypocrisy knows no bounds.

Posted by Kamran Aziz on July 15, 2008 at 03:14 PM BST #

Dear Mr.David, The situation in Zimbabwe is very alarming and its high time the International Community take some drastic and effective action to save the people of Zimbabawe. Now that diplomatic efforts has failed, military intervention by the UN Secrity Forces or NATO Forces is the only option and President Mugabe has to be tried at the International Court of Justice at The Hague on the league of War Crimes for his genocide of his own people. Its frustating for countries like Russia and China voting against the motion at the UN Security Council. Further countries like India maintains a stunning silence when atrocities are committed against mankind and the Indian government says its non-interference of other countries internal affairs be it in Burma, Darfur or in Zimbabwe instead of voicing their concern with the West against the atrocities and come out of their narrow self-centred foreign policies. Regards / Venkat 07737935609.

Posted by VENKATRAGAVAN M SANTHANAM on July 16, 2008 at 01:21 AM BST #

Before Mr. King above and others begin lambasting the Russians and Chinese, he would do to reflect that Mr. Medvedev recently public expressed his wish for improved bilateral relations with the UK. The day before his first scheduled meeting with the Prime Minister at the G8, someone at MI5 briefed BBC Newsnight that they believed there was 'state involvement' in the murder of Litvinenko. Downing St. subsequently issued a statement saying that the briefing was unauthorised and that British authorities still took a view that 'one individual' was responsible. By that time, however, the gaping self-inflicted wound in HMG's foot was plain for all to see. I wonder if the Foreign Secretary would care to comment on why the Russians would want to cooperate in such a hostile atmosphere and how come loose cannons appear to be able to undermine his department's work with apparent impunity.

Posted by Paul Dale on July 16, 2008 at 08:29 PM BST #

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