Amid increasing tension over Ukraine between Russia and Western countries of the NATO alliance, the UN Secretary-General declared on Monday that “there is no alternative to diplomacy.”
“I am deeply worried by the heightened tensions and increased speculation about a potential military conflict in Europe”, António Guterres told journalists, in a statement at UN Headquarters in New York.
With Western powers and the Ukrainian Government voicing increasing concern over the likelihood of a Russian invasion, which Moscow has repeatedly denied it is planning, the UN chief said that “the price in human suffering, destruction and damage to European and global security is too high to contemplate.”
‘Dive over a cliff’
“I will remain fully engaged in the hours and days to come. I just spoke this morning with the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation and Ukraine”, he added, saying that “abandoning diplomacy for confrontation is not a step over a line, it is a dive over a cliff.”
“In short, my appeal is this: Do not fail the cause of peace”, Mr. Guterres said, after an informal meeting with ambassadors of the Security Council, where Russia sits as a Permanent Member, along with the United States, China, France, and the United Kingdom.
According to news reports, there has been intense diplomatic activity through the day, with the leaders of the UK and the US, agreeing that a “window for diplomacy” remains open.
Russia’s foreign minister reportedly told Russian President Vladimir Putin that there was still room for at diplomatic de-escalation, while Ukraine’s President declared that Wednesday would be a national “Day of Unity”.
‘More needs to be done’
“I welcome the recent flurry of diplomatic contacts and engagements, including between Heads of State”, said Mr. Guterres: “But more needs to be done, and I expect all to intensify such efforts, noting that the world “simply cannot accept even the possibility of such a disastrous confrontation.”
“All issues – including the most intractable – can and must be addressed and resolved through diplomatic frameworks. It is my firm belief that this principle will prevail.”
Mr. Guterres said the UN Country Team remained “fully operational” in Ukraine, while the Secretary-General, had a “duty to appeal for the full respect of the United Nations Charter, a fundamental pillar of international law”, which clearly states that “all Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.”
He said the time was now, “to defuse tensions and de-escalate actions on the ground. There is no place for incendiary rhetoric. Public statements should aim to reduce tensions, not inflame them.”