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More than 80 countries support talks to pave way for peace in Ukraine

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Dozens of countries joined Ukraine on Sunday in calling for “dialogue among all parties” to end its war with Russia at a two-day summit in Switzerland, but Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he was firmly opposed to any talks that could lead to Ukraine ceding territory.

The weekend summit drew dignitaries from about 90 countries to the Swiss Alpine resort; Russia was not invited, so China and Brazil declined to attend.

At the end of the meeting, most delegations signed a statement of common principles promoting prisoner exchanges and nuclear safety.

They also said that to move forward, “further engagement of representatives of all parties is needed.” Such vague language underscored the lack of consensus on the biggest question facing the conference: When and how should Ukraine and Russia pursue peace talks?

With the two countries entering their third year of all-out war, with neither side able to claim a clear military victory, some world leaders have called on the warring parties to negotiate and compromise. India, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey and other countries reiterated that message at the summit.

But Zelensky has maintained that lasting peace in Ukraine can only be achieved with a full Russian withdrawal. He told reporters on Sunday that once the international community develops a peace plan based on the summit’s conclusions, “then this approved plan will be passed on to the representatives of the Russian Federation.”

“Then,” he added, “we’ll see if they’re ready to end the war.”

Asked about the prospects for negotiations, he said, “If Russia leaves our legitimate territory, it can start negotiating with us tomorrow, there is no need to wait.”

For Ukraine, which invited Switzerland to host the summit and has worked to invite as many world leaders as possible, the summit is important in promoting globally Zelenskiy’s vision of ending the conflict, which also includes reparations and accountability for Russian war crimes.

“The ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine continues to cause massive human suffering and destruction, and triggers risks and crises with global implications,” said the meeting’s joint statement, which Switzerland said had been supported by more than 80 countries.

But a few countries, including India, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates, refused to sign. Senior Indian diplomat Pawan Kapoor explain His country did not agree with the statement because “only a mutually acceptable option could achieve lasting peace.”

South Africa criticized the summit for including Israel and called for further negotiations between Russia and Ukraine. (South Africa Israel charged with genocide in international courtIsrael called the move “despicable.”)

“Our actions should not exclude the possibility that Russia and Ukraine return to the negotiating table,” Sydney Mufamadi, national security adviser to the South African president, said in a statement.

Ukraine’s Western allies have rarely spoken of the possibility of peace talks with Russia. Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, said Russia could only be “part of the effort to get the path to peace to its destination” if it showed it would respect United Nations principles, such as territorial integrity.

“A key question remains: how and when can Russia be included in the process?” said Swiss President Viola Amhed. “The discussions over the past two days have shown that there are different views.”

Swiss officials said the way forward could be closer engagement with Russia on specific priorities discussed at the summit, including ensuring safe shipping in the Black Sea and releasing prisoners of war.

The United States, Ukraine’s main ally, sent Vice President Kamala Harris to the summit, who left Saturday evening after the first day of meetings. On Sunday, President Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, told delegates that the summit laid the groundwork for future negotiations, but gave no details on when or how those talks would take place.

He said such talks would be based on countries’ recognition of the “concepts of sovereignty and territorial integrity” as stated in the UN Charter.

“This creates a platform for Ukraine to build confidence in future negotiations and to ensure its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Sullivan said.

To end the war, diplomatic support could strengthen Ukraine’s position in eventual peace talks. But progress on the battlefield would surely affect any settlement.

Russia’s winter offensive has shown signs of weakening. It has moved the front line about 15 miles at most, to the west of the town of Avdiivka in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.

On the Ukrainian side, American ammunition and weapons are helping to tip the balance in Kiev’s favor. Congress has not approved the aid for months, but it has begun arriving on the battlefield. Ukraine expects to receive its first F-16 fighter jets this month or next, though they will improve the Ukrainian military’s prospects only gradually as pilots master the fighters’ combat skills.

Zelenskiy said he would continue to push for diplomatic efforts to prepare for a second summit, when Ukraine would present a peace plan to Russia. He said Ukraine was already in talks with countries that had expressed interest in hosting such a meeting.

But Russia has shown little willingness to engage in Zelenskiy’s diplomatic line. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed the summit in a television interview aired on Sunday, saying “they will not talk about peace.”

John Alligan From Johannesburg; Mujib Mashar From New Delhi; Natalia Novosolova From Kiev, Ukraine.

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