UN chief calls for diplomacy to defuse Russia-Ukraine tensions

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UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks at a press encounter at the UN headquarters in New York, on Feb. 1, 2022. [Photo/UN handout via Xinhua]

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday called for diplomacy to defuse the heightened tensions between Russia and Ukraine.

In a press encounter, Guterres said he was deeply worried about the current tensions and increased speculation about a potential military conflict.

"The price in human suffering, destruction and damage to European and global security is too high to contemplate. We simply cannot accept even the possibility of such a disastrous confrontation," he said.

"There is no alternative to diplomacy. 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," said Guterres.

Earlier on Monday, the secretary-general held a virtual meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. He also spoke separately with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.

Guterres said he will remain fully engaged in the hours and days to come.

He said, as secretary-general, it is his duty to appeal for the full respect of the UN Charter, a fundamental pillar of international law.

He quoted part of Article 2 of the UN Charter: "All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered. All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations."

The time is 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, he said.

Guterres welcomed the recent flurry of diplomatic contacts and engagements, including between heads of state, but said more needs to be done.

"I have made my good offices available and we will leave no stone unturned in the search for a peaceful solution. Abandoning diplomacy for confrontation is not a step over a line, it is a dive over a cliff," he said. "In short, my appeal is this: do not fail the cause of peace."

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