UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will be kicking off his mediation mission to end the Moscow-Kiev conflict with a visit to Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday ahead of his meetings with Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Volodymyr of Ukraine.
In a brief note to correspondents on Saturday evening, the UN chief’s spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said that Guterres will be “received” by Erdogan in Ankara.
Turkey has been the hub of diplomacy for Russia and Ukraine and consulting with Erdogan could help Guterres prepare for his meetings with Putin on Tuesday and with Zelensky on Thursday.
Because of Erdogan’s good relations with Ukrainian and Russian leaders as well as his country’s membership in the Western military alliance NATO, Ankara has taken the lead in mediation efforts and the representatives of the two countries have met in Turkey.
Before Guterres begins his round of diplomacy, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin are to visit Kiev on Sunday in a show of solidarity with Ukraine, Zelensky announced at a press conference on Saturday.
But as of Saturday night, the US was silent on their visit.
The renewed brutal attacks by Russia on Ukraine, where it has been facing stiff resistance, have added urgency to UN diplomacy and Guterres cancelled his scheduled trip to Nigeria next week to take up the Ukraine issue.
Guterres’s call for an Easter ceasefire this weekend was rejected by Moscow. Some of the Orthodox Christian churches celebrate Easter on Sunday as they follow a separate calendar from the Western churches which observed the feast last Sunday.
Under-Secretary-General Martin Griffiths, who is charged by Guterres to find a diplomatic solution to the conflict, was scheduled to have travelled to Turkey last week but cancelled it after he tested positive for Covid.
Griffiths had earlier visited Moscow and Kiev.
In a separate announcement on Friday, Dujarric said that Guterres will “be received by” Putin and Zelensky in their countries and will have working meetings with their Foreign Ministers, Sergei Lavrov of Russia and Dmytro Kuleba of Ukraine.
The announcement did not say where the meetings with Zelensky and Kuleba will take place.
Guterres’s personal diplomacy to end the conflict comes as the UN, powerless to act against the Russian invasion of Ukraine because of Moscow’s veto right in the Security Council, faces a grave crisis of confidence.
The invasion is also a personal betrayal for Guterres and a misjudgement because he had said that a war was not likely till the conflict began on February 24.
About his agenda, Guterres’s Associate Spokesperson Eri Kaneko told reporters on Friday: “He wants to discuss with the leadership, what steps can be taken right now in order to silence the guns in order to help the people and in order to allow the people who need to get out to get out and have safe passage.”
The General Assembly has condemned the Russian invasion and demanded that Moscow end the conflict, but UN Charter does not allow it to enforce its decisions as the Security Council can.
(Arul Louis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed @arulouis)