Ban warns against escalation of crisis in Ukraine, saying ‘small sparks’ could ‘ignite larger flames’

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks to journalists after briefing Security Council members in closed consultations. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

28 March 2014 – Reiterating his strong call for a diplomatic solution to the crisis over Ukraine, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon this evening warned the concerned parties – and the wider international community – that “at this time of heightened tensions, even small sparks can ignite larger flames of unintended consequences.”

“What started as a crisis in Ukraine, is now also a crisis over Ukraine. From the beginning, my objective has been to seek a peaceful and diplomatic solution to the crisis, in keeping with the fundamental principles of the United Nations Charter,” Mr. Ban told reporters following his briefing to the Security Council on his recent travels.

The UN chief, on the road since 20 March, paid official visits to the capitals of both Ukraine and Russia, and also attended Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague, the Netherlands, and visited Greenland’s Ilulissat Icefjord, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

On the Ukraine crisis, Mr. Ban said he had “strongly urged the Russian and Ukrainian leaders to de-escalate the situation, avoid hasty actions and immediately engage in direct and constructive dialogue to resolve all the problems.”

Answering a reporter’s question on Russia’s intent to send troops into southern and eastern Ukraine, the Secretary-General said President Vladimir Putin assured him that he had no such intention.

“I have been really trying to urge both parties to de-escalate the situation. Emotions were running high, as you will agree, and tensions have been very highly charged. Therefore, my immediate priority was to urge…the leaders of both [countries] to engage in direct dialogue,” said Mr. Ban.

“Now is the time for dialogue and peace,” he stated, adding that the UN will continue its efforts to find a solution to the Crimean crisis through diplomacy and the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission, which has been on the ground in the region for nearly two weeks.

Mr. Ban expressed concern over the divisions that this crisis in creating among the international community, fearing it could “harm our ability to address other pressing concerns, conflicts and humanitarian emergencies.”

Citing Ukraine, Syria and the Central African Republic as some of the most important issues in need of resolution, the UN chief said: “I have also urged Members of the Security Council to address these issues as soon as possible, because there are so many, much more longer-term issues like the Millennium Development Goals, sustainable development and climate change.”

Regarding his visit to Greenland, the Secretary-General said: “I was able to see for myself again the impact of climate change phenomenon. The icebergs and glaciers are melting rapidly.

Having personally been to Antarctica, the North Pole, and Iceland, Mr. Ban noted that Greenland’s Ilulissat Icefjord “is the fastest moving glacier in the world,” and, while he admires the people of Greenland’s ability to live harmoniously with nature, the effects of global warming – melting glaciers, extreme weather patterns and rising sea levels – are starting to “seriously threaten” their livelihoods.

Mr. Ban called on all world leaders to come to his 23 September climate change summit with “strong political will.”

As for the Nuclear Security Summit, the Secretary-General said that he had joined other world leaders in The Hague in highlighting the need for vigilance regarding the risk of nuclear terrorism. “International cooperation will be crucial not only in avoiding the proliferation of nuclear materials, but also in advancing nuclear disarmament – the best guarantee against this threat,” he declared.


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