The latest developments in Ukraine are testing “the entire international system”, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said at a media stakeout on Tuesday, saying, “we must pass this test.”
“Our world is facing the biggest global peace and security crisis in recent years – certainly in my tenure as secretary-general,” he said.
Having cancelled an overseas visit that included “a very important summit of African leaders,” the UN chief told journalists that “we face a moment that I sincerely hoped would not come.”
Guterres rushed back to UN headquarters in New York “deeply troubled by the latest developments regarding Ukraine.”
He highlighted reports of increased ceasefire violations across the contact line and the real risk of further escalation on the ground.
The secretary-general drew attention to “the safety and wellbeing” of all those who have already suffered from “so much death, destruction and displacement”.
“Let me be clear: The decision of the Russian Federation to recognise the so-called ‘independence’ of certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions is a violation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine,” he said.
He noted that such a unilateral measure not only conflicts directly with the principles of the UN Charter but is also inconsistent with the so-called Friendly Relations Declaration of the General Assembly, which the International Court of Justice has repeatedly cited as representing international law.
Guterres described Russia’s move as “a death blow” to the Security Council-endorsed Minsk Agreements, the fragile peace process regulating the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
He also highlighted that “the principles of the UN Charter are not an a la carte menu.”
“They cannot be applied selectively. Member States have accepted them all and they must apply them all,” UN chief emphasised.
Guterres then drew the media’s attention to what he called “the perversion of the concept of peacekeeping”.
Expressing pride over the achievements of UN Peacekeeping operations “in which so many Blue Helmets have sacrificed their lives to protect civilians”, he reminded that when troops of one country enter another’s territory without its consent, “they are not impartial peacekeepers”.
“They are not peacekeepers at all,” the top UN official said.
The UN, in line with the relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions, “stands fully behind the sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine, within its internationally recognised borders,” the secretary-general said.
He reminded the reporters that the Organisation continues to support the people of Ukraine through its humanitarian operations and human rights efforts.
At this critical moment, he called for “an immediate ceasefire and re-establishment of the rule of law”.
“We need restraint and reason. We need de-escalation now,” the UN chief said, urging all to “refrain from actions and statements that would take this dangerous situation over the brink”.
“It is high time to return to the path of dialogue and negotiations. We must rally and meet this challenge together for peace, and to save the people of Ukraine and beyond from the scourge of war,” Guterres said.
“I am fully committed to all efforts to resolve this crisis without further bloodshed”.
The secretary-general reiterated that his good offices are available and would not relent in the search for a peaceful solution.