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Zelensky seeks internationally agreed peace plan to present to Russia

June 16, 2024, Sunday @ 11:41 in World » GENERAL | Views: 1866
Zelensky seeks internationally agreed peace plan to present to Russia

Volodymyr Zelensky stands next to a Ukrainian flag on the sidelines of the Summit on peace in Ukraine, at the luxury Burgenstock resort, near Lucerne, on June 15, 2024.

World leaders from countries around the world gather in Switzerland this weekend to try to work out a way towards a peace process for Ukraine -- albeit without Russia. (Photo by ALESSANDRO DELLA VALLE / POOL / AFP)

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(AFP) - As world leaders lined up to offer their support at summit for peace in Ukraine Saturday, President Volodymyr Zelensky voiced hope of garnering international agreement around a proposal to end the war that he could present to Moscow.

More than two years after Russia invaded, leaders and senior officials from more than 90 states gathered in a Swiss mountainside resort for a two-day summit dedicated to Kyiv's plan to end the largest European conflict since World War II.

Most voiced strong support for Ukraine, demanding a "just peace".

Others, however, criticised Moscow's exclusion and warned Kyiv it would need to compromise if it wanted to end the war.

In his opening remarks, Zelensky told the assembly: "We must decide together what a just peace means for the world and how it can be achieved in a lasting way.

"Then it will be communicated to the representatives of Russia, so that at the second peace summit we can fix the real end of the war."

Kyiv has previously said Russia would be invited to a second summit -- a position many countries backed Saturday.

- 'Capitulation' -

The summit comes as Ukraine is struggling on the battlefield, where it is outmanned and outgunned.

On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded Ukraine's effectively surrender if it wanted to even begin peace talks.

Putin's call for Ukraine to withdraw from the south and east of the country -- already rejected by Zelensky as an "ultimatum" -- were widely dismissed.

"He is not calling for negotiations, he is calling for surrender," US Vice President Kamala Harris said.

"All us are committed to build a sustainable peace... Such a peace cannot be a Ukrainian capitulation," French President Macron said.

"There is one aggressor and a victim," he added.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz warned that any ceasefire without "serious negotiations with a roadmap towards a lasting peace... would only legitimise Russia's illegal land grab".

EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen took a similar line, arguing: "Freezing the conflict today with foreign troops occupying Ukrainian land is not an answer.

"In fact, it is a recipe for future wars of aggression."

- 'Difficult compromise' -

It was a more mixed message, however, from outside Ukraine's traditional circle of backers.

Saudi Arabia, an energy ally of Russia, told Kyiv it would have to make a "difficult compromise" if it wanted to end the conflict.

"And here it is essential to emphasise that any credible process will need Russia's participation," Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud said.

China, which struck a "no-limits" strategic partnership with Moscow days before the February 2022 invasion, did not send a delegation to the conference in protest at Russia's exclusion.

And Kenya's President William Ruto criticised the latest Western measures against Russia, this week's G7 deal to offer a $50-billion loan to Ukraine secured against profits of frozen Russian assets.

"Just as Russia's invasion of Ukraine was unlawful and unacceptable, the unilateral appropriation of Russian assets is equally unlawful," Ruto said.

The range of positions on display hints at the difficulty Kyiv faces in securing agreement for any settlement that it would be happy to send to Russia.

Turkey, a potential mediator, issued a stark assessment of the need for action, warning the war risked spilling outside Ukraine or ending in the use of nuclear weapons.

"This conference ... might be the last exit before the bridge," Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan cautioned.

- Gaza comparisons -

Attendees at Saturday's summit were wrangling over a possible final joint declaration, according to sources close to the discussions cited by Swiss public news agency Keystone-ATS.

Kyiv has insisted that terms like "Russian aggression" and references to its "territorial integrity" appear in any joint communique. It was not clear, however, if more than 90 countries could get behind such wording.

And as Zelensky lent heavily on the UN Charter and international law to criticise Russia's invasion, some world leaders drew parallels with the Israel-Hamas war.

"Only the respect of international law and human rights can guarantee peace. The same applies to the conflict in Gaza," said Chile's President Gabriel Boric.

Zelensky did not say whether he was prepared to engage with Putin directly in talks to end the conflict, though he has in the past ruled out direct talks with him.

On Sunday, delegates will focus on three areas: nuclear safety, freedom of navigation and food security, and humanitarian issues.

That includes prisoners of war and the issue of Ukrainian children taken to Russia or Russian-controlled parts of Ukraine.

G7 leaders this week agreed its $50-billion loan for Ukraine, and Kyiv also inked a 10-year security agreement with Washington for military aid and training.

On Friday, the European Union's 27 member states agreed "in principle" on beginning accession negotiations with Ukraine.

© Agence France-Presse

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