United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed strong hopes in his wide-ranging end-of-year news conference on Monday that the war in Ukraine – the most devastating conflict in Europe since World War II- will end in 2023.
The UN chief called for everything possible to be done to end the war although he sees no prospect of talks to end it in the immediate future and expects a continuation of the already escalating military conflict.
According to Guterres, the July agreements the UN brokered along with Turkiye to restart food and fertilizer exports from Russia and grain deliveries from Ukraine are making a difference even in Ukraine.
He said that without an immediate prospect for talks, the UN is currently concentrating its efforts on expanding the initiative by increasing exports and inspections, noting that Russian wheat exports have multiplied three-fold.
The initiative has, so far, seen over 14 million metric tons of Ukrainian grain shipped from three Black Sea ports but the UN is now looking, as Guterres explained, into possibly exporting the key ingredient of desperately needed fertilizer, Russian ammonia, from a Black Sea port.
The UN Secretary-General is also very interested in accelerating the exchange of Ukrainian and Russian prisoners of war in January, before Orthodox Christmas which both countries celebrate.
With regard to the other global hotspots, Guterres urged all countries to fight the extreme right’s terrorist threats, asked the international community to tell the new right-wing government in Israel that there isn’t an alternative to the two-state solution and strongly condemned the Tehran government’s crackdown on Iranian demonstrators.
He urged Taliban rulers in Afghanistan to restore girls’ rights to an education at all levels and women’s rights to work, to include all ethnic groups in the government, and to stop all terrorist activity on Afghanistan’s territory.
Underscoring the clear threat of terrorism and the need to fight that threat with enormous determination Guterres also urged condemnation of every form of extremism – including neo-Nazism, white supremacism, anti-Semitism, and anti-Muslim hatred – in Western countries and elsewhere in the world.