The UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Monday appealed for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Ukraine, so that “serious political negotiations” can advance towards a peace agreement, based on the principles of the UN Nations Charter.
Guterres told journalists that a cessation of hostilities would allow essential humanitarian aid to be delivered and enable civilians to move around safely, and it will save lives, prevent suffering and protect civilians.
Guterres, while speaking to reporters outside the Security Council in New York, lamented continues assault and bombardment of Ukrainian towns and cities by Russia.
“I hope a ceasefire will also help to address the global consequences of this war, which risk compounding the deep hunger crisis in many developing countries that already lack fiscal space to invest in their recovery from the pandemic, and now face soaring food and energy costs,” he added.
Responding to questions on possibility of using nuclear or bio-chemical weapons by Russia, Guterres said “that would be something that, I believe, will be avoided – it must be avoided”.
He said that the UN Humanitarian Affairs Chief, Martin Griffiths, would “immediately explore” an agreement with Russia and Ukraine for the ceasefire.
ThevUN chief added that he was in “close contact” with other countries in the hope of involving Russia in meaningful negotiations, including Turkey, Qatar, Israel, India, China, France and Germany.
According to him, since the beginning of the Russian invasion one month ago, the war has led to the senseless loss of thousands of lives; the displacement of 10mmillion people, mainly women and children; the systematic destruction of essential infrastructure; and skyrocketing food and energy prices worldwide.
“This must stop”, he added, declaring that the UN is “doing everything in its power to support people whose lives have been overturned by the war”.
In the past month, beyond support to refugee hosting countries, the UN’s humanitarian agencies and partners have reached nearly 900,000 people, mainly in eastern Ukraine, with food, shelter, blankets, medicine, bottled water and hygiene supplies, he said.
There are now more than 1,000 UN staffers in Ukraine, working via eight humanitarian hubs in Dnipro, Vinnytsia, Lviv, Uzhorod, Chernivitzi, Mukachevo, Luhansk and Donetsk.
Guterres said the World Food Programme (WFP) and partners reached 800,000 people in the past month and would be scaling up to reach 1.2 million by the middle of April.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) and partners have reached more than 500,000 people in the most vulnerable areas with emergency health, trauma and surgery kits, he added.
“Just today, a convoy of trucks brought food, medical and other relief supplies from WFP, WHO, UNHCR, UNICEF to Kharkiv, to be delivered by our national partners to thousands of people in hard-hit areas.
“Our agencies and partners are procuring vital supplies and setting up pipelines for delivery throughout Ukraine in the coming weeks,” he said.
But the UN chief made it clear that any solution “to this humanitarian tragedy is not humanitarian. It is political”.
He, however, made a strong appeal to the parties to the conflict, and to the international community overall, “to work with UN for peace in solidarity with the people of Ukraine and across the world”.
The UN Correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Kremlin says face-to-face peace negotiations between delegations from Ukraine and Russia could take place in Istanbul on Tuesday.
“Today they will probably not continue there,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on Monday.
“We expect that, theoretically, it could happen tomorrow.”
The head of the Russian delegation, Vladimir Medinsky, said that a new round of face-to-face meetings are planned to start on Tuesday after about two weeks of online negotiations.
According to Peskov, a face-to-face meeting will allow for more substantive negotiations than a video link. (NAN)