UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addresses a General Assembly meeting commemorating the 40th anniversary of the adoption and opening for signature of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, at the UN headquarters in New York, on Dec 8, 2022. (ESKINDER DEBEBE / UN PHOTO / HANDOUT VIA XINHUA)
UNITED NATIONS – UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Monday that he did not expect effective peace talks over the conflict in Ukraine "at the immediate future."
"I am not optimistic about the possibility of effective peace talks at the immediate future. I do believe that the military confrontation will go on, and I think we'll have still to wait (for) a moment in which serious negotiations for peace will be possible. I don't see them on the immediate horizon," he said.
And that is why the United Nations is concentrating its efforts on other aspects, such as the increased efficiency and expansion of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which allows the export of Ukrainian grain and other agricultural products from Black Sea ports, Guterres told an end-of-year press conference at the UN Headquarters in New York.
We have seen a massive escalation already with the heavy bombardment of electrical infrastructure, which, of course, is having a dramatic impact on the living conditions of the Ukrainians at the present moment … My position is very clear. There is never a military solution for these problems. But it is important that a solution is in line with the UN Charter and with international law.
Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General
"We are very interested in accelerating the exchange of prisoners of war and especially when we are approaching Christmas – and both sides (of the conflict) celebrate Christmas in January. I think this would be something very important," he said. "So, we'll go on trying to be useful, offering platforms of dialogue for these aspects to minimize suffering. But we have no illusions that a true peace negotiation would be possible in the immediate future."
Guterres warned against further escalation of the conflict in Ukraine.
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Commenting on reports of possible new Russian offensives in Ukraine, he said there is enough talk about escalation. "We have seen a massive escalation already with the heavy bombardment of electrical infrastructure, which, of course, is having a dramatic impact on the living conditions of the Ukrainians at the present moment … So, we don't need more to talk about escalation."
"My position is very clear. There is never a military solution for these problems. But it is important that a solution is in line with the UN Charter and with international law," said the UN chief.
He expressed the hope that something positive may happen in 2023.
"When I said I do not see chances for a true peace negotiation on the immediate horizon, I did not mean the whole of 2023. I strongly hope that, in 2023, we'll be able to reach peace in Ukraine," he said.
The consequences for the Ukrainian people, for the Russian society and the economy, and for the global economy, especially for developing countries, are reasons for the world to do everything possible to make a peace solution happen before the end of 2023, said Guterres.
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Strengthen Russian-Belarusian ties
Separately, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Minsk and held talks with his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko to boost comprehensive cooperation between the two countries.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko attend a joint statement following their talks in Minsk, Belarus on Dec 19, 2022. (PAVEL BEDNYAKOV / SPUTNIK / KREMLIN / POOL PHOTO VIA AP)
Calling Russia and Belarus "the closest allies and strategic partners," Russian President Vladimir Putin said the two countries are consistently deepening economic integration, together resisting sanction pressure, and coordinating steps to minimize the impact of Western restrictions
"The main issues of Russian-Belarusian relations in economic, cultural, humanitarian, security and defense spheres were discussed in a businesslike and constructive manner," Putin said at a joint press conference following the meeting.
Calling the two countries "the closest allies and strategic partners," Putin said Russia and Belarus are consistently deepening economic integration, together resisting sanction pressure, and coordinating steps to minimize the impact of Western restrictions.
Bilateral trade turnover will hit a record of over $40 billion by the end of this year, while Russia remains the largest investor in the Belarusian economy with over $4 billion, he noted.
"During today's talks, we also discussed in detail the issues of forming a common defense space and ensuring the security of the (Russia-Belarus) Union State as well as cooperation within the framework of the Collective Security Treaty Organization," Putin told reporters.
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At the press conference, Lukashenko said he considered the talks on the main issues of Belarusian-Russian cooperation as constructive and fruitful.
"Today, we can unequivocally state that together we are able not only to survive but also to find opportunities for the development of our economies," he said.