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Ukraine summit opens door to limited future talks with Russia

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky (left) speaks with Philippines' President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (not pictured) during their meeting at the Malacanang Palace in Manila on June 3, 2024. (Jam Sta Rosa/Pool/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)

A Swiss-hosted summit on Ukraine will aim to carve a path to involving Russian officials in future talks after establishing agreement on nuclear safety, food security and returning abducted children, a draft document shows.

The June 15-16 gathering in Lucerne, Switzerland, will focus on the three measures as a way to build trust in order to later engage with Moscow on a limited number of issues, according to a draft document seen by Bloomberg.

Although Russian officials have been excluded from the Kyiv-led format, the document says that an end to the war must involve all parties.

“We, therefore, agreed to undertake concrete steps which can serve as confidence building measures in the above-mentioned areas with further engagement of the representatives of the Russian Federation,” the document, which is subject to change in negotiations, says.

Before opening talks with Moscow, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had aimed to secure consensus from countries — particularly those of the so-called Global South — for a broader set of demands that included the full withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine.

But the aims of the Swiss summit, a culmination of rounds of talks by senior diplomats and national security advisers from dozens of nations, have narrowed from Ukraine’s 10-point blueprint in an effort to secure the participation of as many leaders as possible.

Ukraine and its allies have struggled to win full backing for the process, above all from China, which has signaled it may not attend the meeting. Zelenskyy last week accused Beijing, which has sought to portray itself as neutral even as it maintains close ties with Moscow, of working to undermine the summit.

The extent of the participation from other key nations, such as India, Brazil, South Africa and Saudi Arabia, remains unclear.

Biden No-Show

Still, over 100 countries and 75 heads of state have confirmed they will attend, according to the Ukrainian leader. Most Group of Seven leaders will attend, but not U.S. President Joe Biden. Vice President Kamala Harris will make the trip, the White House said Monday. Biden’s national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, will join her.

The draft document lays out three main principles:

•Nuclear power facilities must be safe and any threat of using nuclear weapons is “inadmissible.” Nuclear installations, including the power plant in Zaporizhzhia, must operate under Ukrainian control and in line with principles set out by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

•Food security must not be “weaponized” — and be guaranteed by free navigation in the Black Sea and Sea of Azov. Ukraine must have access to third parties for its agriculture products.

•All captives in the war must be released, including all “deported and unlawfully displaced” Ukrainian children and civilians, who must be returned to Ukraine.

Russia has in the past sought to influence other international gatherings, such as meetings of the Financial Action Task Force — by pressuring governments and threatening to upend defense and energy deals — and looked to enroll allies such as China for help, Bloomberg has reported. Moscow has also made Africa a key focus of its disinformation efforts.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi meanwhile said more than two dozen countries have expressed backing for Beijing’s initiative to resolve the war, which would involve both Ukraine and Russia.

The draft, which says a path to peace must align with the United Nations Charter, anticipates that a second summit will take place.


© 2024 Bloomberg L.P

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