António Guterres: “At this moment peace is not possible in Ukraine. Both parties believe they can win” | International

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The Secretary General of the UN, António Guterres (Lisbon, 74 years old), receives the Carlos V European Award this Tuesday at the Yuste Monastery (Cáceres), an award that King Felipe VI will give him and that, he assures, has a “ special meaning” for him. “When I won the first elections [portuguesas, en 1995] I went to Yuste with my wife and I was impressed to see that someone who had been emperor of the world stayed the last years of his life, after abdicating, in a very simple monastery, which is a lesson for many politicians today." , slide. When he speaks —soft and slow, in a Spanish seasoned with Portuguese terms—, Guterres seems to yearn for a retirement like that of Carlos V, far from a troubled world where the war in Ukraine, global warming or the massive flows of refugees imperiously claim his intervention. He responds to all these problems in an interview granted on Monday to EL PAÍS.

Ask. You receive an award that recognizes Europeanism at a time when the continent is once again experiencing a war on its soil. How can Europe and the UN stop the war in Ukraine?

Answer. Unfortunately, I believe that a negotiation for peace is not possible at this time. Both parties are convinced that they can win. This was a Russian invasion against international law, against the Charter of the United Nations, but I do not see Russia at the moment willing to withdraw from the territories it occupies and I think Ukraine is hoping to retake them. What we are doing, to the extent possible, is having a dialogue with both parties to solve specific problems. The most important initiative has been the export of grain from Ukraine and food products and fertilizers from Russia through the Black Sea.

Q. That agreement expires on May 18. Do you trust to renew it?

R. last thing i did last night [domingo]and the first thing I did this morning [lunes], is to be in contact with my colleagues who deal with the matter. We are totally involved to try to save the initiative. Rebecca Grynspan [secretaria general de la Conferencia de Naciones Unidas sobre Comercio y Desarrollo] was in Moscow and Martin Griffiths [secretario general adjunto de Asuntos Humanitarios] is in istanbul [por este martes]. We are going to prepare a meeting of the four parties [Rusia, Ucrania, Naciones Unidas y Turquía] in Istanbul and we are doing everything we can to better respond to Russian problems. It is true that the export of food and fertilizers is not under sanction, but there are indirect obstacles that remain and we are trying to eliminate them; in addition to solving the problems that exist with the inspections, which are on hold in the Black Sea. It is a question of achieving a prolongation of the initiative that is more lasting and perfect.

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Q. Will peace have to wait until both parties are convinced that neither can win?

R. Right now I don't see any chance of immediately – we're not talking about the future – a global ceasefire, a peace negotiation.

Q. Meanwhile, there is a risk of escalation: the use of tactical atomic weapons by Russia or a nuclear accident in Zaporizhia.

R. Zaporizhia is a big concern. I hope there is enough care on both sides not to cause a tragedy. And I think the possibility of a nuclear escalation is very small. The Chinese initiative was very important for stating very clearly that a nuclear escalation is unacceptable. That China has that position is very important to avoid a temptation that would be an intolerable absurdity.

Q. Are the mediation offers from China or from President Lula, in Brazil, doomed to failure?

R. I already said that a peace negotiation at this time is not going to happen. I hope in the future yes. There was talk of a Russian offensive in the winter and a Ukrainian one in the spring. It is clear that the parties are fully involved in the war.

Q. Does the delivery of weapons to Ukraine respond to the right to self-defense?

R. I have never made nor will I make any comment on the supports that exist or do not exist. It is clear that both parties have tried to acquire weapons and that is what happens in wars. The objective is to make possible, not immediately but later, a peace that is just, in accordance with international law and the United Nations Charter. But we are still a long way from that.

Q. You have warned that we are heading towards an increase in temperatures of 2.8 degrees by the end of the century. Is it necessary to renounce the fulfillment of the objective of the Paris Agreement, which is a rise of less than two degrees?

R. The recent IPCC report [Grupo Intergubernamental de Expertos sobre el Cambio Climático]the highest scientific authority on the subject, affirms that it is possible that temperatures will not rise above 1.5 degrees at the end of the century, but [para eso] we have to dramatically change what we do, because emissions continue to rise. I have proposed a solidarity pact between the large developed economies and the large emerging ones, which represent 80% of emissions. My proposal is that the former manage to reach carbon neutrality as close as possible to 2040 and the latter, as close as possible to 2050. But we are not heading in that direction. We have not yet found the political will of the governments, and the contributions of the private sector are not enough to avoid a catastrophe with unforeseeable consequences.

The UN Secretary General, António Guterres, during his interview with EL PAÍS.samuel sanchez

Q. Are we in time to avoid it?

R. We are very close to the moment of truth. If the necessary measures are not taken, the 1.5 degree target will be lost forever and that would be terrible for humanity.

Q. Should we hold the oil companies accountable?

R. Oil companies should be at the forefront of decarbonization. Today we are witnessing something morally intolerable. We see these companies with exceptional profits that they use to buy their own shares instead of investing in green energy, which has led us to ask states to implement extraordinary taxes. The current situation is an insult, especially for the most vulnerable populations, who are paying a very, very high price for these companies to have a very, very high profit as well.

Q. Since you were UN High Commissioner for Refugees [2005-2015] the situation and the number of displaced people have only worsened.

R. At that time, international refugee law was respected practically everywhere in the world. Unfortunately, we see that today in the Great South there is a provision to accommodate hundreds of thousands of refugees, as in Sudan, but in the developed world many doors have been closed. There is no policy to guarantee that migration is ordered and regulated, which is why traffickers control it, with terrible violations of human rights. I think that Europe has a problem to solve: its demography is unsustainable and immigration is a component to guarantee its survival. But there is no European migration policy, there are national policies, sometimes contradictory, and this means that Europe does not have a positive role in the global regulation of population movements. It's a shame.

Q. Europe has welcomed millions of Ukrainians, but closes the door to other groups.

R. There was a great openness with the refugees from the Ukraine and that is very good, but the same countries had a completely closed attitude with the Syrian refugees and we witnessed the terrible image of seeing them march through the Balkans in a chaotic situation. And that has a very negative impact on the south. Many wonder why there is not very strong support for Ukraine in those countries and the truth is that they feel that there are two weights and measures, among other matters in immigration, and that causes deep frustration.

The UN Secretary General, António Guterres, in the Madrid hotel where the interview took place.
The UN Secretary General, António Guterres, in the Madrid hotel where the interview took place.samuel sanchez

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