In close contact with India, others on mediation efforts to end war in Ukraine: UN

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UN secretary general Antonio Guterres. Photo: AP

United Nations: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Monday that he was in “close contact” with India and a number of other countries on “mediation efforts” to bring an end to the war in Ukraine.

Voicing deep concern that “Ukraine” is on fire and the country is being “decimated” before the eyes of the world, Guterres asserted that it is time to stop the horror unleashed on the people of Ukraine and get on the path of diplomacy and peace.

“I have been in close contact with a number of countries -- including China, France, Germany, India, Israel and Turkey – on mediation efforts to bring an end to this war,” Guterres told reporters here.

“The appeals for peace must be heard. This tragedy must stop. It is never too late for diplomacy and dialogue. We need an immediate cessation of hostilities and serious negotiations based on the principles of the UN Charter and international law,” he said. Guterres said countless innocent people – including women and children – have been killed.

“After being hit by Russian forces, roads, airports and schools lie in ruins. According to the WHO, at least 24 health facilities have suffered the attack,” he said.

Guterres stressed that further escalation of the war, whether by accident or design, threatens all of humanity.

“Raising the alert level of Russian nuclear forces is a bone-chilling development. The prospect of nuclear conflict, once unthinkable, is now back within the realm of possibility. The security and safety of nuclear facilities must also be preserved,” he said. As millions of people in Ukraine face hunger and dwindling supplies of water and medicine and at least 1.9 million people are displaced inside the country, Guterres warned that there is another dimension to the conflict that gets obscured.

“This war goes far beyond Ukraine. It is also an assault on the world's most vulnerable people and countries," he said.

"While war rains over Ukraine, a sword of Damocles hangs over the global economy – especially the developing world. Even before the conflict, developing countries were struggling to recover from the pandemic – with record inflation, rising interest rates and looming debt burdens,” he said.

The UN chief emphasised that ability of the developing countries to respond has been erased by exponential increases in the cost of financing.

“Now their breadbasket is being bombed,” he said.

Highlighting the economic impact of the ongoing conflict, Guterres noted that Russia and Ukraine represent more than half of the world's supply of sunflower oil and about 30 per cent of the world's wheat.

Ukraine alone provides more than half of the World Food Programme's wheat supply.

The UN chief said that the war also shows how the global addiction to fossil fuels is placing energy security, climate action and the entire global economy at the mercy of geopolitics.

"Food, fuel and fertilizer prices are skyrocketing. Supply chains are being disrupted. And the costs and delays of transportation of imported goods – when available – are at record levels,” he said, adding that all of this is hitting the poorest the hardest and planting the seeds for political instability and unrest around the globe.

A total of 45 African and least developed countries import at least one-third of their wheat from Ukraine or Russia, he said, adding that 18 of those countries import at least 50 per cent.

This includes countries like Burkina Faso, Egypt, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.

With grain prices having already exceeded those at the start of the Arab Spring and the food riots of 2007-2008 and the FAO's global food prices index at its highest level ever, Guterres said: “We must do everything possible to avert a hurricane of hunger and a meltdown of the global food system.”

Guterres voiced concern that developing countries are getting “pummeled” amid the conflict and they face a cascade of crises – beyond the Ukraine war.

“We cannot forget COVID and the impacts of climate change -- in particular, drought,” he said.

Against the backdrop of these immense inter-connected challenges, Guterres announced on Monday the establishment of a Global Crisis Response Group on Food, Energy and Finance in the UN Secretariat.

He said he has asked Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed to lead an inter-agency steering committee with partners to oversee this effort.

In response to a question on mediation efforts, Guterres said, “we are doing our best".

I've talked with a number of leaders that are in permanent contact with President Putin. And of course we consider that it is absolutely essential for an additional effort to make the Russian Federation understand that this war is becoming an absolute nightmare and to create the conditions for the war to be stopped, and for serious negotiations to be put in place,” he said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on February 24 announced a military operation in Ukraine and warned other countries that any attempt to interfere with the Russian action would lead to unprecedented consequences.

More then two weeks of war has created a humanitarian crisis in Ukraine that has accelerated in recent days. The United Nations estimates that over 2 million Ukrainians have fled their country, and the number is expected to grow.


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