Home News Ukraine hosts peace talks in Switzerland, although Russia not invited

Ukraine hosts peace talks in Switzerland, although Russia not invited


What is the value of peace talks that are not actually negotiations between warring parties?

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy was due to convene a peace conference in Switzerland on Saturday aimed at rallying as many countries as possible to support Ukraine’s negotiating position. However, while the two-day meeting has become the most widely accepted diplomatic effort yet to end the war, Russia is not currently participating.

The meeting, held in the Alpine resort near Lucerne, Switzerland, effectively signalled support for some of the points Ukraine had made in its proposal that it said were necessary to achieve a lasting peace. The plan has been criticised by some countries, including China and Brazil, which say direct talks between Russia and Ukraine are needed to end the war.

“You don’t negotiate with friends, you negotiate with adversaries,” Celso Amorim, chief foreign policy adviser to Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, said in an interview.

Zelensky said Ukraine intends to negotiate with Russia collectively – after reaching a consensus among Kiev’s allies and as many neutral countries as possible. Zelensky’s 10-point peace plan includes Russia’s full withdrawal from Ukrainian territory, payment of reparations and trial for any war crimes.

On Friday, Russian President Vladimir V. Putin Proposed its own ceasefire planUkraine condemned Putin’s proposal, saying it was aimed at derailing weekend talks.

Ukraine worked hard to build momentum for this year’s Swiss conference, pushing for a meeting that would endorse all 10 of its negotiating positions. But then it narrowed the focus to three — nuclear safety, food security and humanitarian issues such as prisoner swaps and the return of Ukrainian children illegally taken to Russia — to attract countries reluctant to endorse ideas that were seen as less feasible.

“We have come out of difficulties that could have divided the country, and we only raised three points at the first summit,” Zelensky told Central Asian news outlets last month.

Zelensky said Ukraine hopes to reach consensus on the three points and the conference is expected to produce at least a draft on those issues. He said once the participating countries agree on the points, they will be submitted to Russia, possibly with the United Nations as a broker.

“Then we’ll see if Russia wants to end the war,” Zelensky said of Russia’s foreign policy strategy. Interviewed by The New York Times Last month in Kyiv.

The question of how Russia and Ukraine should conduct future talks is expected to be one of the topics discussed, people involved in preparations for the meeting said. Zelenskiy’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, said on Tuesday he hoped the meeting would lay the groundwork for future talks with Russia.

Currently, both Russia and Ukraine are working to gain support from other countries for the final negotiation format (if both sides are willing).

China and Brazil, which back a separate negotiating proposal, are not expected to send high-level delegations to this weekend’s Ukraine conference. Switzerland said it expected delegations from 100 countries and organizations, including 57 heads of state and government.

But there have been some setbacks. President Biden, who has traveled to Europe twice in recent weeks for D-Day commemorations and a Group of Seven summit, will skip the meeting. Vice President Kamala Harris will attend in his place.

The absence of China, the country with the greatest economic and diplomatic influence on Russia, also casts doubt on the reality of the meeting.

Brazil avoided sending any high-level officials, although Mr. Amorim, a presidential adviser who said in an interview that peace talks without Russia were futile, was in Geneva anyway for the United Nations trade conference.

“I don’t defend either side, but I personally know very well that this meeting in Switzerland will not produce any results,” he said. “I respect the wishes of both sides, but it is clear that nothing will be achieved.”

China said 45 countries had “positively responded” to Brazil and China’s negotiation proposals, but did not name any specific countries. Amorim said he did not know how many or which countries supported the conditions, but he pointed out that as the country with the greatest influence on Russia, China’s participation was key.

Ukraine has rejected such talks.

Another country trying to mediate between Russia and Ukraine is Turkey, which will be attended by its Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan, who met with Putin in the Kremlin on Tuesday.

A Turkish diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with Turkish diplomatic protocol, said Turkey considered the Swiss talks important but that a meeting with Russia’s participation had a greater chance of success.

Oleksiy Polegki, academic director of the Ukrainian Center for Public Diplomacy, told Ukrainian TV news on Thursday that Kiev’s summit strategy could ultimately be a diplomatic blunder.

He said the meeting would likely end without a declaration confirming Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders, which would provide room for territorial concessions in a final settlement before extracting anything in return from Russia.

In any case, he said, “our expectations for this summit may be a little overestimated because peace will not be achieved through summits.”

But Maria Zolkina, director of conflict studies at the Democratic Initiatives Foundation, a nongovernmental organization, said the conference’s diplomacy had value for Ukraine beyond the formal efforts to build support for the three points in Kyiv’s peace plan.

She said the effort would help advance Ukraine’s vision for Eastern Europe’s postwar order and deter future Russian expansionism, adding that Ukraine hopes to gain support for negotiations on its own terms “rather than starting with a proposal from China, Russia or others.”

Maria Valenikova Reporting from Kiev, Safaq Timur From Istanbul. Anastasia Kuznetsova Also participated in the reporting.

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