UN chief to meet Ukrainian president in Kiev

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kiev on Wednesday, a UN spokesman said.

“The secretary-general has just arrived in Poland on his way to Ukraine,” said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for Guterres, in a statement issued on Tuesday.

Guterres and Zelensky will discuss the continuation of the Black Sea Grain Initiative in all its aspects, said the statement.

On July 22, 2022, Russia and Ukraine separately signed a document in Istanbul with Türkiye and the United Nations on grain and fertilizer exports from Ukraine and Russia to ensure supplies to global markets amid the Russia-Ukraine armed conflict.

The deal, due to expire on Nov. 19, 2022, was extended for another 120 days. Guterres has repeatedly called for the deal’s further extension.

While in Kiev, Guterres will also talk with Zelensky about “other pertinent issues,” Dujarric said in the statement, noting that it is the UN chief’s third visit to Ukraine in the past year.

Guterres will be back to the United Nations headquarters in New York on Thursday, according to the statement.

Later at a noon press briefing Tuesday, Guterres’ deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said the UN chief “is currently in Ukraine,” making his way to Kiev.

There’s no visit to Moscow planned, Haq said, pointing out that prior to leaving New York, Guterres had a conversation with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin.

“And from the secretary-general’s standpoint, he’s willing to go wherever he’s needed and whenever it’s useful. But, of course, we’ll see how that develops,” he said.

A delegation from Russia is expected to be in Geneva next week for further discussions, said Haq, adding that “so those will be conducted at a high level there concerning the Black Sea Grain Initiative.”

“I think we are engaged in serious discussions and we’ll continue to do so,” he said. “And I think it should be clear to all participants the advantages, the very real advantages in continuing this initiative.”

Under the initiative, more than 20 million metric tons of foodstuffs have been safely reconnected to global supply chains on more than 700 ships, helping to bring down prices around the world, Guterres told a UN Security Council high-level meeting on Ukraine on Feb. 24.

“I want to underscore the importance of all parties remaining engaged in this initiative, and reiterate our call for it to be extended beyond March 2023,” he then said. ■

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