UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Monday that he did not expect effective peace talks over the conflict in Ukraine "at the immediate future."
"I am not optimistic about the possibility of effective peace talks at the immediate future. I do believe that the military confrontation will go on, and I think we'll have still to wait (for) a moment in which serious negotiations for peace will be possible. I don't see them on the immediate horizon," he said.
And that is why the United Nations is concentrating its efforts on other aspects, such as the increased efficiency and expansion of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which allows the export of Ukrainian grain and other agricultural products from Black Sea ports, Guterres told an end-of-year press conference at the UN Headquarters in New York.
"We are very interested in accelerating the exchange of prisoners of war and especially when we are approaching Christmas -- and both sides (of the conflict) celebrate Christmas in January. I think this would be something very important," he said. "So, we'll go on trying to be useful, offering platforms of dialogue for these aspects to minimize suffering. But we have no illusions that a true peace negotiation would be possible in the immediate future."
Guterres warned against further escalation of the conflict in Ukraine.
Commenting on reports of possible new Russian offensives in Ukraine, he said there is enough talk about escalation. "We have seen a massive escalation already with the heavy bombardment of electrical infrastructure, which, of course, is having a dramatic impact on the living conditions of the Ukrainians at the present moment ... So, we don't need more to talk about escalation."
"My position is very clear. There is never a military solution for these problems. But it is important that a solution is in line with the UN Charter and with international law," said the UN chief.
He expressed the hope that something positive may happen in 2023.
"When I said I do not see chances for a true peace negotiation on the immediate horizon, I did not mean the whole of 2023. I strongly hope that, in 2023, we'll be able to reach peace in Ukraine," he said.
The consequences for the Ukrainian people, for the Russian society and the economy, and for the global economy, especially for developing countries, are reasons for the world to do everything possible to make a peace solution happen before the end of 2023, said Guterres.