U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged Russia, Ukraine and the West on Monday to de-escalate tensions, saying “there is no alternative to diplomacy.”
“The price in human suffering, destruction and damage to European and global security is too high to contemplate,” he said of a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine, which the West says could happen as soon as Wednesday.
“We simply cannot accept even the possibility of such a disastrous confrontation,” he said at United Nations headquarters.
He pledged to remain engaged with the parties, offering his offices to help find a solution.
Guterres spoke to reporters after returning from a regular monthly luncheon held with the 15 members of the U.N. Security Council. Russia holds the rotating presidency of the council this month and hosted the luncheon at their U.N. mission.
Earlier Monday, Guterres had a virtual meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that lasted about 20 minutes. He then spoke separately with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.
Guterres did not divulge details of his discussions, but he welcomed recent diplomatic contacts, including among heads of state. But he cautioned that incendiary rhetoric is not helpful.
“Public statements should aim to reduce tensions, not inflame them,” the U.N. chief said.
He also quoted from the U.N. Charter, emphasizing its call on members to settle their international disputes peacefully and refrain “from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations.”
“Abandoning diplomacy for confrontation is not a step over a line, it is a dive over a cliff,” Guterres warned. “In short, my appeal is this: Do not fail the cause of peace.”