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The United Nations secretary-general said he saw “minimal” chances of a peace deal with Russia following a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Wednesday. Still, the organization has pledged to keep working with Moscow to speed up the export of necessary food and fertilizers.
“Obviously, anything that can help rebuild confidence is useful, but it would be naive to think that we are close to the possibility of a peace deal,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said at a press conference on Wednesday. “My good offices are ready, but I have no illusions that, at the present moment, the chances of a peace deal are minimal, at the present moment.”
Guterres arrived late to the press conference, admitting that he had just spoken with Putin regarding the ongoing difficulty Moscow claims to face in exporting grains and other food supplies to the rest of the world – an issue that could lead to global famine if it remains unresolved.
“We had the opportunity to discuss the Black Sea Grain Initiative and its extension and expansion, possible expansion,” Guterres explained. “There are, as you know, talks in relation to the possibility of ammonia, Russian ammonia exports through the Black Sea … in line with the methodology that is run by the JCC, the Joint Coordination Committee.”
The export of ammonia, which could be used as fertilizer, could help stabilize a growing crisis as prices soar during a shortage resulting from Russia and Ukraine’s difficulty getting the product to market due to the Russia’s invasion.
In his opening remarks, Guterres warned that without the deal and movement of Russian food and fertilizers, there was a risk of “multiple famines” in the coming year.
“We have discussed the obstacles that still exist in relation to the exports of Russian food and fertilizers, and I have to say that we now have a dramatic situation in the world in fertilizers,” Guterres said, adding that the world faces a fertilizer “crunch.” “We have news from different parts of the world where the cultivated areas are much smaller than in the previous cycle, which means that we risk to have in  a real lack of food.”
“What we have is to guarantee that there are effective mechanisms that allow developing countries with risk of famine to be able to have access to the food that is available, and this is either through forms of direct assistance,” he added, again stressing the need to stabilize the fertilizer market.
A peace deal between Russia and Ukraine could help lead to that stabilization, but Guterres presented a bleak picture regarding that possibility. He affirmed that inspectors sent to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station found “worrying” radiation and that the UN will continue to seek security around the plant.
“I go on with my contacts with both sides and hope that, one day, it will be possible to move into a higher level of discussion,” he said.
“Now we are discussing the exports of ammonia. Now we are discussing aspects related to prisoners of war or to the Fact-Finding Mission or to Zaporizhzhia. One day, I hope it will be possible to discuss peace.”