Saudi Arabia is set to host peace talks among Western countries, Ukraine, and key developing countries this week. According to reports, the meeting would bring senior officials from up to 30 countries to Jeddah on August 5 and 6.
Saudi Arabia will unlikely invite Russia to the peace talks. The peace talks come as the war appears to have reached a stalemate. According to the same paper of July 30, Europe and the US are intensifying their efforts to consolidate international support for Ukraine.
Saudi Arabia and Ukraine have invited 30 countries, including Brazil, India, Indonesia, Egypt, Mexico, Chile, and Zambia. The meeting follows a gathering of senior officials in Copenhagen in late June, attended by Brazil, India, Turkey, and South Africa.
Why The Saudi Initiative
Quoting Kyiv circles, the Vatican News channel said Saudi Arabia would host a “Ukrainian-organized peace summit to find a way to end the war with Russia in Ukraine. Officials said the gathering will be in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah in early August.
Riyadh claims it has maintained a neutral stance on the Kremlin’s ongoing war, but Western economies have accused the kingdom of keeping oil prices high, an unfriendly move that allows Moscow to finance its war.
News about the peace summit in Saudi Arabia comes just over two months after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited Saudi Arabia to suggest closer cooperation. “We already have a positive experience with Saudi Arabia regarding the release of our people captured by Russia,” he recalled. “We can expand this experience.”
What “positive experience’ does Zelensky hint at? Zelensky urged Arab leaders to help people in territories occupied by Russia, including the Crimea peninsula, which Moscow annexed in 2014. “A noble call to all of you to help protect our people, including the Ukrainian Muslim community,” he told an Arab summit in Saudi Arabia last May.
Obviously, to his “noble call,” Zelensky adds the angle of religion to the war against Russia. He said, “For centuries, the Crimean Tartars have been and should remain an integral and strong part of the Muslim community of the world. But these people of Crimea were the first to suffer from Russian occupation. And until now, most of those subjected to suppression in the occupied Crimea are Muslims.” Zelensky stressed.
This explains the relations between Pakistan and Ukraine and Pakistan’s policy of supplying tanks to Ukraine. It also gives a clue to the rumor of clandestine but frequent and undisclosed destinations of cargo flights from Pakistan in recent months.
Additionally, Riyadh would not want President Erdogan of Turkey to hijack Zelensky’s appeal to the Arab nations knowing that Erdogan is keen to espouse the cause of the ummah.
Zelensky’s Ten-Point Formula
During Zelensky’s visit to Washington on December 22, President Biden said in public remarks only that he and Zelensky “share the same vision” for peace and that the United States is committed to ensuring that Ukraine can defend itself,” reported Reuters on December 28, 2022.
It said that Zelensky had been vigorously promoting his 10-point peace plan, discussing it with President Biden, among others, and urging world leaders to hold a Global Peace Summit. He first announced the formula at a November summit of the Group of 20 major economies.
The plan calls for:
1. Radiation and nuclear safety, focusing on restoring safety around Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, Zaporizhzhia in Ukraine, which is now Russian-occupied.
2. Food security, including protecting and ensuring Ukraine’s grain exports to the world’s poorest nations.
3. Energy security, with a focus on price restrictions on Russian energy resources and aiding Ukraine with restoring its power infrastructure, half of which has been damaged by Russian attacks.
4. Release all prisoners and deportees, including war prisoners and children deported to Russia.
5. Restoring Ukraine’s territorial integrity and Russia reaffirming it according to the UN Charter, which Zelensky said is “not up to negotiations.”
6. Withdrawal of Russian troops, cessation of hostilities, and restoration of Ukraine’s state borders with Russia.
7. Justice, including establishing a special tribunal to prosecute Russian war crimes.
8. Prevention of ecocide, the need for protection of the environment, with a focus on demining and restoring water treatment facilities.
9. Prevention of conflict escalation and building security architecture in the Euro-Atlantic space, including guarantees for Ukraine.
10. Confirmation of the war’s end, including a document signed by the involved parties.
Any dispassionate evaluation of the 10-point formula reveals it is a formula suggested by a victorious party for the vanquished one. This is not the Zelensky formula but the US’ Western Allies plus NATO formula. It speaks the mind of Europe on how it would like Russia to be treated.
There is not the slightest hint about Moscow’s security concerns when one of its neighboring countries is flooded with the fullest war machinery, and to what purpose? What do the UN Charter and the International Law suggest when a member country complains about piling up modern war weaponry, including digital weapon buildup in its neighborhood?
The Western world has run billions of dollars in the Ukrainian war. Response to the peace plan has been a cautious one.
G-7 leaders said they were committed to bringing peace to Ukraine “in line with its rights enshrined in the UN Charter.” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that chance for peace talks is small anytime soon. “I do believe that the military confrontation will go on, and I think we will have still to wait for a moment in which serious negotiations for peace will be possible,” he reiterated.
The 10-point formula is a subtle plan of roping in the Global South for mustering support to the Ukrainian cause or, to be precise, to the Western cause. The plan appears to have been initiated by the Western countries and fathered by the US.
Zelensky has been on a diplomatic flurry presenting his plan to leaders, including President Biden, President Macron, and Prime Minister Modi of India, who has assumed the presidency of G-20. It is a diplomatic push against Moscow.
Head of the Ukrainian Presidential Office, Andriy Yermak, said at a meeting of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities held in Ivano-Frankivsk, “The Ukrainian Peace Formula contains ten fundamental points, the implementation of which will not only ensure peace for Ukraine but also create mechanisms to counter future conflicts in the world.”
He emphasized that the Ukrainian side uses a three-phase structure for implementing the Zelensky formula. The first phase is meeting with ambassadors accredited to Ukraine.
The second phase is of Ukraine initiating meetings of national security advisors to find optimal wording and mechanisms for implementing the plan, and the third phase will be an inaugural global summit at the level of heads of state, which may take place by the end of the year.
The formula seems to have been thrown up with an eye on the West’s domineering interests and status in the international political spectrum, not focusing on the Russian-Ukraine logjam.
The Ukrainian spokesman Andriy Yermak said, “President Zelensky said that our choice is to unite the world around Ukraine. The evidence of this choice is clear: we are engaging countries from the West, East, North and South.” Russia has not been invited to the meet, which means the peace-proposing side wants to play Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark.
The Jeddah meeting does not instill hope of a statesmanlike formula to emerge from the two-day deliberations. It must be kept in mind that several attempts were made voluntarily by stakeholders to find a just solution, but the Westerners scuttled all those attempts just because they wanted to take care of their interests and not those of peace and general good.
India should desist from taking any initiative for two important reasons. One is that any formula not prioritizing the interests of the Western economies over those of Russia will not work.
Secondly, India must understand that Zelensky has no qualms of conscience in playing a non-secular card in this game of cutthroat competition.
- KN Pandita (Padma Shri) is the former Director of the Center of Central Asian Studies at Kashmir University. Views expressed here are of the author’s.
- Mail EurAsian Times at etdesk(at)eurasiantimes.com