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UN chief off camera over Russo-Ukrainian war

UN chief off camera over Russo-Ukrainian war

In March 2020, the head of the UN, Antonio Guterres, had been forceful and very present at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Two years later, he seems out of the picture and unarmed in the face of the war unleashed after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“He is very upset”confirmed to AFP a senior official of the UN who requested anonymity. Silent in the face of the vast Russian military deployment around Ukraine’s borders, the former Portuguese prime minister still said, shortly before the invasion, that he was “convinced” that the Russian president, Vladimir Putinwould not cross the line.

A day earlier, on February 23, during an emergency meeting of the Security Council on New Yorkthe UN Secretary-General pleaded: “Mr. Putin, don’t invade”. At the end of this surreal session after which Russian tanks entered the Ukraine, he implored to no avail: “Mr. Putin, withdraw your troops!”

Already “very pessimistic” at the end of 2021 about the future of the world, Anthony Guterreswho will turn 73 on April 30, is even more so today with a “meaningless war” in the heart of the European continent, added the same official.

“Guterres is quite affected, it is his nightmare”estimates an ambassador to the body on condition of anonymity.

According to several diplomats, Guterres hit the nail on the head by quickly denouncing a violation by Russia of the Charter of the United Nations that prohibits “the use of force…against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State”.

Even though the Baltic countries and Ukraine consider “that it should hit harder, have a much clearer and more offensive language”another diplomat who asked not to be identified told AFP.

Thanks to his legal argument, in a “historic vote” on March 2, 141 of the 193 member countries condemned Russia at the UN General Assembly.

But several pitfalls remain. The main one is a categorical denial by Putin of any contact with the UN about the war in Ukraine. Putin stood within feet of Guterres in Beijing during the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in early February, but the two officials did not speak to each other for an unknown reason.

“Putin is not happy” with Guterres’ reaction to the invasion, confided the same ambassador in question.

telephone style

Isolated from Moscow, Guterres immerses himself in discretion at the risk of being criticized. Distraught, a member of his entourage told AFP that “cross your fingers” by an external act that makes it possible to stop the war.

What if the head of the United Nations “Will he wake up before the movie ends?”he noted ironically Bertrand Badieprofessor of international relations in Paris. “Where’s Guterres?”added the historian Stephen Schlesinger in New York, in a column for Passblue, a medium specialized in the UN. “So far, it has not made any progress to stop the war”lamented this expert.

The question lies: Is he considering going to Ukraine when he has only spoken once since the February 24 invasion with President Volodymyr Zelensky?

“The United Nations system as a whole, the Secretariat and those who report to the Secretary General are on the front line”, replied his spokesman, Stéphane Dujarric. Focusing “in diplomacy”, “humanitarian aid” and alert about “the global impact of this crisis” in the world, he told AFP.

Anthony Guterres “It is not” an articulator of direct efforts, but his personality is one of “a telephone style”, argued the senior official. He also underlined the difficulty of the head of the UN to interact in a conflict that involves the two main military powers of the world: Russia and United States.

New order

When “If it is necessary to renew the threads of dialogue, to find a solution, the Secretary General will be able to play a role of mediator”another ambassador said hopefully.

after the war, “The international order, particularly the UN, will face serious questions about whether it remains fit for purpose”thought ashish pradhanof the group of experts International Crisis Group.

According to him, “The implications for the Security Council, for example, are likely to be quite serious.”

During a speech on March 10, Antonio Guterres acknowledged that the war in Ukraine was giving the world back “to the founding promise of the Charter of the United Nations: to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war”.

Source: Gestion

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