An interior ministry sapper collects unexploded ordnance in Hostomel, Ukraine, on April 18. (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)
A ceasefire in Ukraine is not on the horizon, but may come in the coming weeks depending on how the war and ongoing negotiations continue, according to Martin Griffiths, UN under secretary general for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.
“Ceasefires … they’re not on the horizon right now, but they may be in a couple of weeks. They may be a little bit longer than that,” Griffiths said in his remarks Monday to reporters at the UN headquarters in New York City.
Griffiths said he plans to go to Turkey later this week to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to identify ways that the UN can help support the peacekeeping and negotiations process between Ukraine and Russia. He added that he was “really impressed” by the role that Turkey is playing in the conflict, calling the country “an important aspect” of the situation.
“We need to watch the talks very, very carefully, hence the trip to Turkey this week,” Griffiths said.
Griffiths said he also hopes that Turkey can host a “humanitarian contact group” through which negotiations about humanitarian aid can be discussed. He said that Ukrainian officials have already agreed to this and that he hopes Russian officials will too.
Griffiths added that Ukrainian officials have agreed to most proposals made by the United Nations regarding humanitarian aid and ceasefires, but Russia has not yet given a similar response.
“Obviously we have not yet got humanitarian ceasefires in place. On the Russian side, I went into a lot of detail on this, and they continued to promise to get back to me on the details of those proposals,” Griffiths said. “In Ukraine, it was a very welcome meeting with their leadership. They agreed to most of the proposals we are making, we have yet to get the same response from the Russian Federation.”
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres charged Griffiths on March 28 with meeting with officials from both Ukraine and Russia about arrangements for a humanitarian ceasefire in Ukraine.
Griffiths said he recently met with the Ukrainian prime minister, two deputy prime ministers, the Ukrainian minister of defense, and the deputy foreign minister for this reason. He has said previously that he met with Russian officials on April 4.
The aim of the discussions with both parties is to make sure authorities are aware of United Nations aspirations for humanitarian aid and to discuss ways in which the UN might improve its humanitarian notification system, Griffiths said.
Griffiths said Ukrainian officials agreed to the idea of a common humanitarian contact group and to the idea of local ceasefires for the purpose of delivering humanitarian aid, but said the Russians “are not putting local ceasefires at the top of their agenda, not yet.”
“On the humanitarian side, we need to have much more willing acceptance, primarily of the Russian Federation, to allow convoys in and convoys out,” Griffiths said.
When asked whether he believed Russia would, in good faith, implement a durable ceasefire, Griffiths said he would keep trying to facilitate and mediate one, despite a current lack of action from the Russian side.
“Hope is the currency of the mediator,” Griffiths said. “In every war that I’ve had anything to do with, you always, always begin from a basis of no hope because it looks so appalling, the atrocities are so terrible…you keep on doing it, because frankly, what’s the alternative? He added that “not to keep at it [negotiations], that would be irresponsible.”