Robert Abela at UN condemns Russia’s latest escalation in Ukraine war

Maltese prime minister Robert Abela says Ukraine facing ‘unprovoked aggression’, calls for negotiated end to war at UN General Assembly • Giorgia Mae gets a mention

Prime Minister Robert Abela addressing the 77th UN General Assembly in New York
Prime Minister Robert Abela addressing the 77th UN General Assembly in New York

Malta will continue to stand with the people of Ukraine, Robert Abela has told world leaders at the UN, as he condemned “recent statements” by Russia.

The Maltese prime minister said Ukrainian people “keep facing unprovoked aggression” as he pledged Malta’s continued humanitarian assistance.

“We will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to innocent civilians and condemn tactics and recent statements that do not augur well, and will most probably mean further deterioration of the situation,” Abela told world leaders gathered in New York for the 77th UN General Assembly.

Although not mentioning Russia by name, the use of the words ‘recent statements’ was understood in diplomatic circles to refer to Vladimir Putin’s speech earlier this week in which he announced partial mobilisation, referenda in four Ukrainian regions occupied by Russia and a threat to use nuclear weapons.

Putin’s declaration was condemned by western leaders and the referenda to annex Ukrainian territory were described as a sham.

“Following decades of peace in mainland Europe, this [war in Ukraine] is a stark reminder that peace can never be taken for granted,” Abela said, recalling the thousands of civilians who have been killed.

“Close to 12.8 million people are estimated to have been displaced in Ukraine, which is a third of the nation’s population. The largest human displacement crisis in the world today,” he said.

Abela insisted solutions are not found through the use of force and weapons. “We can only prevent further deterioration of this situation if we manage to resolve war through dialogue, and meaningful negotiating efforts.”

He said that all the players in this war should put the best interests and priorities of all peoples first.

“We all know what the best interests of the people are. Our absolute priority should be to re-establish peace and order. To end war. That is what our people are telling us. This is what they deserve. This is what we have to deliver to them, without further delays,” he said.

Abela said the past three years were full of crises, including a pandemic, impacting the most vulnerable hardest. 

He warned that social unrest will increase if people’s quality of life deteriorates, calling for intensification of efforts to secure peace, equality and justice for all.

Warns against foreign interference in Libya

In a brief mention of the situation in neighbouring Libya, Abela augured a peaceful transition under the auspices of the UN.

However, he also cautioned against “interference from foreign actors”, in a reference to the various countries supporting the different factions in the north African state. 

“Under the auspices of the United Nations and without interference from foreign actors, I augur that this country and its people transition to more peaceful, secure, stable, and prosperous times. For that to happen, decisions must be taken to immediately put aside vested interests in Libya, once and for all,” he said.

 Climate change to top Malta agenda

Referring to Malta’s two-year term as a member of the UN Security Council that starts in January, Abela said Malta will keep climate change on the international agenda.

Climate change posed “a serious threat” to all countries but particularly small islands and coastal communities, he said.

Robert Abela said Malta will prioritise climate change during its two-year term as a member of the Security Council that starts in January
Robert Abela said Malta will prioritise climate change during its two-year term as a member of the Security Council that starts in January

Malta takes up its seat as a non-permanent member of the Security Council in January and will be the only other EU member state, apart from France, which is a permanent member, to be on the UN’s top decision-making body.

“Climate change threatens state sovereignty, brings loss of territory, and causes damage to states’ critical infrastructure as well as their existing rights under maritime zone boundaries,” Abela said.

He added: “As the Prime Minister of Malta, I am fully aware of the threat that climate change is posing to small island states all over the world. No matter how near or far, we truly share similar climate challenges.” 

Referring to natural disasters that have ravaged various countries over the past few months, Abela insisted no country is spared from the impacts of climate change.

“The displacement of people due to climate change, particularly due to droughts and sea level rise leading to loss of territory, is taking place on our watch,” he said.

Abela pledged that as a member of the UN Security Council, Malta will place emphasis on bridging the gap between “science, policy and law making to address global security concerns, especially for the ocean, as the single largest habitat on our planet.”

“As a member state of the European Union, located between two continents, we are committed to promote dialogue and understanding with a view to strengthened cooperation and social progress,” he said.

Abela said Malta stands ready to work with other member states to maintain and foster international peace and dialogue by “keeping security, sustainability, and social justice at the very heart of our efforts and priorities”.

Giorgia Mae gets a mention

Abela concluded his speech by referring to a message his 10-year-old daughter Giorgia Mae asked him to deliver to world leaders.

“She said: ‘I would like the world leaders to be an example to us children and leave behind a beautiful Earth’. May this simple message enable us to deliver what is expected of us,” Abela ended his speech.

Giorgia Mae was present in the audience, having travelled with her father and mother, Lydia Abela, to New York.

Earlier, the Prime Minister and his wife met with US President Joe Biden and his wife Jill, and posed for the customary photo every Maltese prime minister has had with the US president at the time.