UN seeks humanitarian contact group for Ukraine as Russian attacks escalate

The UN humanitarian chief said he planned to arrive in Turkey on Wednesday.

The United Nations:

UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths announced on Monday that he would meet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey this week to push for the creation of a “humanitarian contact group” involving Ukraine and Russia.

Such a group “would meet convened by the UN to discuss on a virtual or real basis at any time to discuss humanitarian issues,” Griffiths told reporters in New York.

This could include ceasefire monitoring, safe passage, humanitarian corridors or other issues between the two warring sides, he said.

Griffiths did not say when he would meet Erdogan, but said he planned to arrive in Turkey on Wednesday and leave on Thursday.

He and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres spoke with Erdogan by phone on Sunday to discuss the initiative.

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 and since then has been repeatedly accused of targeting civilians. Aid agencies have warned of the need to protect and evacuate civilians in the conflict.

Griffiths had visited Moscow in early April ahead of a trip to Kyiv, to try to secure a humanitarian ceasefire and facilitate other aid interventions.

Last week, however, Guterres admitted that a halt to the fighting seemed unlikely – and on Monday Griffiths confirmed that Moscow “isn’t putting local ceasefires at the top of their agenda. Not yet”.

Ukraine has accepted most of the UN’s humanitarian offers, but Russia has not yet, he said, warning it was too easy for both sides to “blame each other when things go wrong”.

The official said he planned to visit Russia again after his trip to Turkey.

He said Turkey was also involved in a naval effort to rescue some 800 people from the besieged city of Mariupol on the Sea of ​​Azov.

Griffiths also said keeping the port of Odessa open was of “the utmost importance”.

Odessa is home to full grain silos storing Ukraine’s harvest, he said, calling it a “lifeline” for countries whose food supply has been hit by war.

(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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