Ramaphosa: African Peace Initiative on Russia-Ukraine conflict ‘bearing fruit’
Following a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, President Cyril Ramaphosa said South Africa’s peace efforts regarding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine were bearing fruit.
President Cyril Ramaphosa met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York on Tuesday and they discussed the African Peace Initiative and the Black Sea Grain Initiative amid Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
Addressing the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, Ramaphosa said South Africa valued “the importance of engaging all parties to conflicts to achieve peaceful, just and enduring resolutions”.
“It is these principles that inform South Africa’s participation in the African Peace Initiative, which seeks a peaceful resolution of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
“Our participation in the African Peace Initiative is informed by a desire to see an end to the suffering of those most directly affected by the conflict and the millions on our continent and across the world who, as a result of the conflict, are now vulnerable to worsening hunger and deprivation,” Ramaphosa said.
“As we engaged with the parties in this conflict, as African leaders, one of the issues we raised was that there should be confidence-building measures that could create a sense of [confidence] towards the resolution of this conflict. In this regard, we said issues such as the children who were removed from Ukraine should be returned. We also said that the prisoners of war should be exchanged between the two countries.
“I have just held a meeting with President Zelensky, who says that, in part, some of our efforts are bearing fruit as children are now being returned and prisoners are being exchanged. But then we said we need to see this happening at a much faster pace,” Ramaphosa said.
“In this conflict, as in all conflicts, we have insisted that the UN Charter’s principle of respect for the territorial integrity of every country should be upheld.”
During their meeting, Ramaphosa and Zelensky are reported to have discussed the “peace formula” proposed by Ukraine as well as the Black Sea Grain Initiative.
In June, Ramaphosa led the African Peace Initiative that included a delegation of leaders from Comoros, Congo-Brazzaville, Egypt, Senegal, Uganda and Zambia to engage with Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin on the war in Ukraine.
In August, Ramaphosa’s national security adviser, Sydney Mufamadi, attended international talks on a “peace formula” proposed by Zelensky in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, following which Ukraine’s government said South Africa could make an “effective contribution” towards securing the release of prisoners and food stability.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Ukraine welcomes SA’s contribution to its peace initiative after Jeddah talks
According to The Odessa Journal, on Tuesday Zelensky told Ramaphosa, “We are extremely grateful that the platform of our peace formula has actually started working.”
Regarding the Black Sea Grain Initiative, the deal under which Russia lifted its blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports to enable Ukrainian grain to be shipped to world markets, Zelensky was reported to have said on Tuesday: “We are not waiting, we are continuing the Black Sea Grain Initiative and trying alternative routes. Several ships with grain have already successfully passed through these routes despite the difficult situation.”
Read more in Daily Maverick: Putin rejects Ramaphosa’s appeal to reinstate Black Sea Grain Initiative
Russia has refused to extend the grain deal, seen as crucial to ensuring global food security. Justifying cancelling the deal in July, Putin falsely claimed that sanctions against its exports of food and fertiliser had not been lifted.
South Africa has been under significant pressure from Ukraine’s allies such as the US to justify its supposed “non-aligned” stance on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine following repeated moves that suggest Pretoria is backing Moscow. DM