UN Secretary General António Guterres meeting with UN Ukraine staff - courtesy of UN
CAIRO – 9 July 2017: The United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres paid his first official visit to Kiev, Ukraine on Sunday. Guterres seized the opportunity to meet with the UN Ukraine staff, who welcomed and greeted him with their smart phones, according to the UN.
During the visit, both Guterres and Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman spoke to the press, where the Secretary General stressed, "We know that fighting is still happening. And, of course, our appeal is for a complete ceasefire."
The UN chief was referring to the ‘harvest ceasefire’ that was brokered by international monitors earlier this summer. The ceasefire entailed a complete cessation of violence along the entire line of contact from June 24 through August 31, in attempts to allow a safe and secure summer harvest. The agreement has allowed local farmers in Ukraine to harvest their crops, but sporadic clashes along the volatile frontline have nonetheless killed a number of Ukrainian soldiers.
In April 2014 a pro-Russian insurgency began in Ukraine with accusations of Moscow masterminding the unrest. Since then, more than 10,000 people have been killed and dozens wounded, while some 1.7 million have been forced to flee their homes. The fighting has led to farms losing access to domestic and international consumer markets, forcing them to downsize and putting them in direct competition with farms in regions of Ukraine unaffected by the conflict. Farmers have also lost normal supply channel lines, disrupting access to seeds, fertilizers, insecticides and more.
A number of international organizations, including several UN-run bodies, are working to help those caught up in the conflict. Guterres said in the press conference on Sunday, "You can count on our strong commitment to support humanitarian action to bring some relief to the people that have been displaced."
Furthermore, the United States and the European Union have imposed sanctions on Russia, although Russia has denied backing the rebels.
On July 10, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is set to visit Ukraine on the 20th anniversary of the partnership between NATO and Ukraine. According to Euro News, the visit might provide an opportunity to discuss Ukraine’s prospects to join NATO.
On July 6, Ukraine signed a bill on its membership in NATO. The eastern European country now needs to initiate the specified reforms to comply with the alliance standards.
Oleksandr Sushko, the Research Director of the Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation, told Euro News that even if Ukraine receives a Membership Action Plan, it is a long-term outlook for Ukraine, mainly because of the ongoing military conflict with Russia.