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UN chief to meet Putin, Zelenskyy

AP – United Nations (UN) Secretary-General António Guterres is set to meet separately with the presidents of Russia and Ukraine next week to make urgent, face-to-face pleas for peace, the world body said on Friday.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed that Guterres is to meet on Tuesday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and that President Vladimir Putin will also host the UN chief.

The UN later said that Guterres will also head on Thursday to Ukraine to see President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.

In both visits, Guterres aims to discuss “steps that can be taken right now” to stop the fighting and help people get to safety, UN spokesperson Eri Kaneko said.

“He hopes to talk about what can be done to bring peace to Ukraine urgently,” she said.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres. PHOTO: AFP

Guterres had asked last Tuesday to meet with the presidents in their respective capitals. He has urged Russia to stop its attack since it began two months ago, in what he called “the saddest moment” in his five years in the UN’s top job. He appealed last Tuesday for a four-day “humanitarian pause” in fighting leading up to the Orthodox Easter holiday.

“Stop the bloodshed and destruction. Open a window for dialogue and peace,” he implored.

Guterres sent the UN’s top humanitarian official to Moscow and Kyiv earlier this month to explore the possibilities of a cease-fire.

But the secretary-general had faced questions about whether he himself should travel to press for peace.

In a recent letter, former UN officials called on him to step up his personal, public involvement.

Whatever overtures may have been made privately, the now-planned trip “is a visible symbol of what the UN is supposed to be standing for, which is peace and security,” one of the letter-writers, former UN political affairs chief Jeffrey Feltman, said by phone on Friday.

“I don’t think any of us should have exaggerated expectations about what the secretary-general will be able to accomplish, but he has significant moral power,” said Feltman, now a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

“It’s important that the secretary-general have these conversations.”

Former Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon went to Moscow and Kyiv in March 2014 to try to foster talks and diplomacy as Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.