Completing his trip to Europe on Saturday, UN chief Antonio Guterres oversaw the departure of two ships involved in the Black Sea Grain Initiative, a UN-brokered operation to bring urgently needed hunger relief to the Horn of Africa.
Mr. Guterres flew into Istanbul on Saturday morning from Chisinau, Moldova - where he was hosted for a working dinner with President Maia Sandu the previous evening - and boarded a pilot boat in the Sea of Marmara, where he sailed next to the M/V Brave Commander, the World Food Programme (WFP) ship which picked up more than 23,000 of wheat in the port of Yuzhny/Pivdennyi, before making her way to deliver the precious cargo to the Horn of Africa, to help people on the verge of famine.
The Secretary-Genera, along with a group of inspectors from the Black Sea Grain Initiative UN Joint Coordination Centre for the Initiative (JCC), also boarded the vessel SSI INVINCIBLE II. The ship is on its way to Chornomorsk in Ukraine to load close to 50,000 tonnes of grain - the largest shipment to leave Ukraine since the start of the war.
Joined by the Turkish Minister of Defence, Hulusi Akar, the Secretary-General toured the Joint Coordination Center. He met the Russian and Ukrainian delegations to the JCC separately, and then for an official session of the JCC, where he thanked all of the participants for their professionalism and humanity in ensuring that this initiative is a success for people around the world.
Pivotal role of Türkiye
In a press conference with Minister Akar, the Secretary-General thanked the government of Türkiye for their pivotal role in the Black Sea Grain Initiative.
The collaborative work of the teams sitting around the table at the JCC embodies what we can achieve with political will, top operational expertise, and collective effort, Mr. Guterres told journalists.
He described the ships that he had just seen in the Marmara Sea and Istanbul is only the more visible part of the solution. The other part of this package deal, he said, is the unimpeded access to the global markets of Russian food and fertilizer, which are not subject to sanctions.
"Without fertilizer in 2022, there may not be enough food in 2023," said Mr. Guterres. "Getting more food and fertilizer out of Ukraine and Russia is critical to further calm commodity markets and lower prices for consumers."
UN Photo/Mark GartenUN Secretary-General makes remarks at the Joint Coordination Centre in Istanbul, Turkey.
Ukraine's contribution to human rights
The Secretary-General's trip began on Wednesday, 17 August , when he arrived in Lviv, Ukraine, having travelled from New York via Warsaw, Poland.
Prior to a trilateral meeting with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine and President of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Türkiye, the Secretary-General briefly visited the Ivan Franko National University of Lviv.
He was greeted, and given a tour, by Volodymyr Melnyk, the rector of the university, which is considered a centre for the study of human rights.
Mr. Melnyk explained the important contributions to the world's science, international law and diplomacy made by the university and its scholars. One of the graduates of the School of International Law, Louis Son, is co-author of the UN Charter and Raphael Lemkin, another graduate, coined the term genocide.
Students from this University were later judges in the International Criminal Court or nominated to Nobel Prizes, including Jan Karski, the famous Polish diplomat who alerted the world to the on-going holocaust during World War II.
Speaking to reporters afterwards, the Secretary-General noted the links between the United Nations and the university adding that today "more and more the contribution of civil society and the contribution of academia are essential in the development of modern democracies."
'Full solidarity with the Ukrainian people'
In his remarks to the press after the trilateral meeting, the Secretary-General, reiterated that the United Nations will go on working in full solidarity with the Ukrainian people to mobilize all of its capacities and resources - alongside national partners - to continue to provide humanitarian support to people in need wherever it is required.
He also underscored that the positive momentum on the food front reflects a victory for diplomacy and multilateralism. Getting food and fertilizer out of Ukraine and Russia in larger quantities is crucial to further calm commodity markets and lower prices. "It is essential to provide relief to the most vulnerable people and countries," he added.
The Secretary-General said he had discussed the investigation of the tragic incident in a detention facility in Olenivka, eastern Ukraine, on 29 July, in which more than 50 Ukrainian prisoners of war were killed in a blast.
Mr. Guterres announced that he is appointing General Carlos dos Santos Cruz of Brazil to lead a fact-finding mission into the killings. In order for the mission to work, he told the press, it needs to have the necessary assurances to guarantee secure access to the site and any other relevant locations. To put it simply, the Secretary-General said, a fact-finding mission must be free to find the facts.
The UN chief is on his way back to New York.