UN chief heads to Moscow, Kyiv

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will leave for Moscow and Kyiv Wednesday, in a bid to help diplomatically resolve the crisis over the Crimean peninsula. From the United Nations,The Security Council will meet Wednesday afternoon to discuss latest developments.

According to Ban’s office, the secretary-general will arrive in the Russian capital on Thursday where he will meet with President Vladimir Putin. He will also hold discussions with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and other senior officials.

On Friday Ban will travel to Ukraine, where he will meet with interim President Oleksandr Turchynov and interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, as well as other key officials.

U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq reiterated that the secretary-general has been hoping for a diplomatic resolution of the situation.

“He has consistently called for de-escalation and for restraint and he is going to press that point with authorities in both Russia and Ukraine,” Haq told reporters. “He believes the focus has to be to engage in direct dialogue between Moscow and Kyiv, aimed at agreeing on specific measures that will pave the way for a diplomatic resolution. And he believes the path for a diplomatic resolution remains open if the parties choose to embrace it.”

Crimean referendum 
On Sunday, the Crimean region of Ukraine conducted a hastily-held referendum under the watch of thousands of Russian troops, voting to secede from Ukraine with the intention of joining the Russian Federation. Ukraine’s interim authorities have declared the vote illegal under the country’s constitution.

With the situation seemingly intractable, what can the U.N. chief hope to accomplish? American University Professor of International Relations Michael Schroeder says in part Ban’s trip is about keeping the possibility of a peace process open.

“I think he sees his job, partially, as to make sure there is a process in place to deter the great powers in the Security Council from feeling it can wash its hands from the process or anything like that,” Schroeder said. “But I also just think he’s hoping — little steps he can negotiate on the sidelines of the bigger issues, things like – human rights monitors getting in, making sure the special representative can potentially get in on the ground and monitor and report back to the council.”

Schroeder said the secretary-general’s presence could also provide an opportunity for the Russians to open a dialogue with the Ukrainians if they wanted to. So far they do not recognize the interim government in Kyiv and have rejected the prospects of talks. But if they wanted to begin discussions, Schroeder sais it might be easier for Moscow to let Ban facilitate it than, for instance, Washington.

During his brief trip, the secretary-general will also meet with members of a U.N. human rights monitoring mission while he is in Kyiv. The U.N. has sought to get monitors into Crimea to assess the situation on the ground.

U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic, who just returned from a trip to Ukraine, will brief the Security Council on his findings during a meeting Wednesday afternoon.

Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson will also brief council members on the latest developments.

Source: VOANews.com
(UN Photo: Paulo Filgueiras)