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As Naval War Intensifies, Ukraine and Allies Seek Peace in Saudi Summit

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August 5, 2023

By Daryna Krasnolutska (Bloomberg) Ukraine and its allies will make their case for Kyiv’s peace plan this weekend to more than 30 countries, including some nations from the Global South that have so far avoided taking sides on Russia’s invasion.

The talks in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, are aimed at building international support for Ukraine’s framework for potential peace talks and a lasting deal, prospects that so far seem remote as the war nears its 18th month. Kyiv and its backers in the US and Europe are hoping the meetings starting Saturday will help get their messages across to major global players such as Brazil, South Africa, China and India, countering the narratives from Russia. Moscow wasn’t invited and denounced the gathering as a “hoax.”

“We can’t talk about security in the world or even in our region without taking into account the positions of countries that are global leaders,” Ihor Zhovkva, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s deputy chief of staff focused on foreign affairs, said in an interview this week. “How can we talk about peace in Ukraine without involving the countries of the Global South?”

Zelenskiy would like the Jeddah meeting to pave the way for a summit of leaders backing the 10-point “peace formula” he released last year, Zhovkva said. So far, key elements of that draft haven’t gotten much traction beyond Kyiv’s allies, however, with its demands for a full withdrawal of Russian troops a nonstarter in Moscow. As a result, the Jeddah meetings aren’t expected to yield immediate results, just as a first round of discussions in Copenhagen in June – which attracted more than a dozen countries – didn’t.

China skipped that round but is sending envoy Li Hui to Jeddah. Ukraine and its allies have called on China to use its strong ties with Moscow to push for a negotiated settlement. Beijing released its own principles for a peace deal earlier this year, but its mediation efforts haven’t made much progress given its public backing of Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

The willingness of Saudi Arabia, which has maintained strong ties with Russia since the invasion, to host the meeting suggests Kyiv may be making progress engaging nations beyond its closest allies. The kingdom, which has been seeking to raise its diplomatic profile, aspires to help mediate between Ukraine and Russia.

Zelenskiy’s 10-point blueprint calls for a full Russian pullout, as well as the release of all war prisoners and deportees and steps to ensure food and energy security. It would also include security guarantees for Ukraine once the fighting ends and restore security around the occupied nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia.

Backed by arms and aid from the US and Europe, Ukraine is pushing ahead with a counteroffensive in an effort to eject Russian forces from its territory. That effort has proved slow going, however, with Moscow’s troops dug in behind minefields and defensive lines. 

Kyiv has stepped up attacks using sea drones, damaging a Russian naval vessel on Friday and a tanker on Saturday. It warned that Russian ports, including commodity hubs, may be at risk in what marked the latest escalation in the area around the Black Sea. 

Also Read: Russia Threatens Ecological War In The Black Sea

The Kremlin remains convinced it can outlast Kyiv and its backers in what Putin sees as an existential struggle. Russia showcased its continuing influence in the Global South with a summit that drew African leaders to St. Petersburg last week. 

“These talks are important because it is becoming clearer that there will only be peace when everyone finds it possible, which is not the case now, “ said Celso Amorim, a longtime aide to Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who is participating in the Jeddah meeting by video link. “Talking about peace is already a great victory.”

US’s Jake Sullivan

The US is sending National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan to Jeddah, underlining its support for the diplomatic efforts.

Zelenskiy has suggested he’d like the negotiations to lead to a peace summit among leaders this fall to rally support for Ukraine’s positions, but it’s not clear that nations of the Global South are ready to take sides so soon. Until they do, Kyiv’s allies may not be willing to back a high-level gathering. The Ukrainian president is expected to head to New York next month to make the case for his peace plan to the annual United Nations General Assembly.

“The first result which we want to achieve in Jeddah is to try to determine acceptable wording for everyone of each of the 10 points in the plan,” Zhovkva, Zelenskiy’s aide, said. Some nations are cautious about Ukraine’s calls for war crimes tribunals, he noted. 

Also Read: Ukraine Attack on Russian Warship Disrupts Oil and Grain Export Hub

Ukraine held four rounds of consultations with foreign diplomats in Kyiv since the meeting in Denmark, and has taken their proposals into account, Zhovkva said. Kyiv hopes to line up countries to help take the lead on particular elements, such as territorial integrity or nuclear security, he said.

Critical for Ukraine is to win international support for its position that no peace deal is possible as long as Russia occupies its territories. That view isn’t universally held outside the US and Europe, with many countries publicly refusing to rule out a compromise that would see Russia keep at least some of the land it’s taken in the event of a cease-fire.

By Daryna Krasnolutska and Alberto Nardelli, With assistance from Simone Iglesias. © 2023 Bloomberg L.P.


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