Ukraine Hosts Peace Talks in Switzerland, Though Russia Isn’t Invited - The World News

Ukraine Hosts Peace Talks in Switzerland, Though Russia Isn’t Invited

What is the value of peace talks that aren’t actually talks between the warring sides?

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine was due to open a peace conference in Switzerland on Saturday that is intended to shore up support for his country’s negotiating positions with backing from as many nations as possible. Yet even as the two-day gathering has emerged as the most widely embraced diplomatic effort to date to end the war, for now, the effort excludes Russia.

The conference, at an Alpine resort near Lucerne, Switzerland, is instead a show of support for some of the points that Ukraine has laid out in its proposal and that it has asserted are necessary to bring a lasting peace. The plan has drawn criticism from some countries, like China and Brazil, that say Russia and Ukraine need to negotiate directly for any chance to end the fighting.

“You don’t negotiate with your friends,” Celso Amorim, a chief foreign policy adviser for President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil, said in an interview. “You negotiate with your adversaries.”

Mr. Zelensky has said that Ukraine’s intention is to negotiate with Russia collectively — after building consensus among Kyiv’s allies and as many neutral nations as possible. Mr. Zelensky’s 10-point peace plan involves Russia’s withdrawing in full from Ukrainian territory, paying reparations and facing justice over any war crimes.

On Friday, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia offered his own cease-fire plan, calling for Ukraine to cede territory and for Western nations to lift their economic sanctions. Ukraine denounced Mr. Putin’s suggestion as intended to undermine the weekend’s talks.

As Ukraine worked to build momentum for the Swiss conference this year, it promoted a gathering that could endorse all 10 of its negotiating positions. But it then dialed them back to three — nuclear safety, food security, and humanitarian issues like exchanging prisoners of war and returning Ukrainian children unlawfully taken to Russia — to draw in countries that were reluctant to endorse the points deemed less feasible.

“We have moved away from difficult things that can divide countries, and we have taken only three points for the first summit,” Mr. Zelensky said in an interview with Central Asian news media last month.

Ukraine, Mr. Zelensky has said, is hoping for consensus on the three points, and the conference is expected to produce at least a draft on those matters. Once the points are agreed on by the countries attending the gathering, he says, they will be passed to Russia, possibly with the United Nations as an intermediary.

“Then we’ll see if Russia wants to end the war,” Mr. Zelensky said of the diplomatic strategy in an interview with The New York Times in Kyiv last month.

The question of how Russia and Ukraine could engage in future talks is expected to be one of the subjects of discussion, people involved in preparing for the conference said. Mr. Zelensky’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, said on Tuesday that he hoped the conference would lay groundwork for future talks with Russia.

Both Russia and Ukraine are now maneuvering to gain support from other nations for their preferred formats for eventual talks, if they come.

China and Brazil are backing a separate negotiating proposal, and neither of those countries was expected to send a high-level delegation for Ukraine’s conference this weekend. Switzerland said that delegations from 100 countries and organizations, including 57 heads of state and government, were expected to attend.

There have been setbacks. President Biden, who has already traveled to Europe twice in recent weeks for a D-Day memorial and a Group of 7 summit, is skipping the gathering. Vice President Kamala Harris is attending instead.

The absence of China, the country with the most economic and diplomatic leverage over Russia, has also cast into doubt the relevance of the conference.

And Brazil has avoided any high-level presence, though Mr. Amorim, the presidential adviser, was in any case nearby in Geneva for a United Nations trade conference. Mr. Amorim said in the interview that peace talks not involving Russia were futile.

“I’m not defending one side or the other, but I, for one, am very clear that nothing will come from this meeting in Switzerland,” he said. “I respect the intentions, but it’s obvious that nothing will happen.”

China has said that 45 countries “responded positively” to the Brazilian and Chinese proposal for talks, without naming the countries. Mr. Amorim said that he had no precise information about how many or which countries supported the conditions, but he noted that the participation of China, as the country with the most influence over Russia, was key.

Ukraine has rejected such talks.

Turkey, another country that has sought to mediate between Russia and Ukraine, will be represented by Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan, who met with Mr. Putin at the Kremlin on Tuesday.

A Turkish diplomat, speaking on the condition of anonymity under the country’s diplomatic protocol, said that Turkey considered the Swiss talks important but that a conference with Russia’s participation would have a greater chance of success.

Oleksii Polegkyi, academic director of the Center for Public Diplomacy in Ukraine, told Ukrainian television news on Thursday that Kyiv’s strategy for the summit could end up being a diplomatic misstep.

The gathering could end, he said, without a statement affirming Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders, an absence that could allow traction on territorial concessions in an eventual settlement before extracting anything from Russia in return.

In any case, he said, “our expectations from this summit may be somewhat overstated, because peace will not be achieved through summits.”

But Maria Zolkina, director of conflict studies at the Democratic Initiatives Foundation, a nongovernmental group, said the value to Ukraine of the diplomacy around the gathering was broader than just the formal effort to shore up support for the three points in Kyiv’s peace plan.

The effort is helping promote Ukraine’s vision of a postwar order in Eastern Europe that would prevent future Russian expansionism, she said, adding that Ukraine wanted to muster support for talks on its terms, “not to start from Chinese, Russian or someone else’s proposals.”

Maria Varenikova contributed reporting from Kyiv, and Safak Timur from Istanbul. Anastasia Kuznietsova also contributed reporting.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *