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WAR IN UKRAINE

Zelensky urges global leaders to attend his peace summit next month

Zelensky urges global leaders to attend his peace summit next month
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Sergey Dolzhenko)

The European Union has also urged SA President Cyril Ramaphosa to attend Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky’s peace summit in June, but Ramaphosa might be busy in the aftermath of South Africa’s elections.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has appealed to US President Joe Biden, Chinese President Xi Jinping and other world leaders to attend his Global Peace Summit in Switzerland next month.

Speaking from Kharkiv, the northeastern city on the Russian border that Moscow is now relentlessly bombarding, Zelensky urged the leaders to participate in the summit to expose the truth about Russia’s intentions. 

“For them, it is a pleasure to burn,” he said in a video message recorded in the smoking ruins of one of Ukraine’s largest publishing houses, Factor Druk, which was hit by Russian missiles on 23 May, killing seven employees and injuring many others.

“We all know who we are dealing with. Russia is run by men who want to make it a norm – burning lives, destroying cities and villages, dividing people and erasing national borders through war.

“There is no nation that can stop such war alone, unaided – world leaders’ engagement is needed.

“We do not want the UN Charter to be burnt… burnt down just like these books. I hope you don’t want either,” Zelensky added, referring to the UN foundational document which demands that a nation’s sovereignty and territorial integrity must be respected by other nations. 

“Please, show your leadership in advancing the peace – the real peace and not just a pause between the strikes. The efforts of the global majority are the best guarantee that all commitments will be fulfilled. Please support the peace summit with your personal leadership and participation.”

Ramaphosa urged to attend

Charles Michel, president of the European Union Council, urged President Ramaphosa to attend the peace summit, when they spoke by phone last week, Daily Maverick understands.

This was hinted at in the joint statement that they released, saying “both presidents discussed the importance of upholding the UN charter and the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity, notably in Ukraine.”

Ramaphosa and Michel also stressed the importance of reaching a ceasefire in Gaza, the release of Israeli hostages and the provision of humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza. 

Last Friday, the International Court of Justice in The Hague ordered Israel to halt its military offensive against Rafah, the southernmost city of Gaza – though Israel has continued its assault. 

It is not clear if Ramaphosa will attend Zelensky’s peace summit. South African officials have attended all four preliminary meetings, but last week, Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Vincent Magwenya, told Daily Maverick that the President might not be able to attend because of the aftermath of Wednesday’s national elections and that he would probably send a Cabinet minister to represent him.

But Daily Maverick understands that Ramaphosa has accepted an invitation to attend the G7 summit in Italy from 13 to 15 June, so will be in Europe when Zelensky’s peace summit starts. At the time of writing, Magwenya had not confirmed whether Ramaphosa would attend the G7 summit.

Diplomats say that Moscow is exerting pressure on many countries, including South Africa and China, not to attend the peace summit.

The Ukrainian Association of South Africa (UKZA) has written to South African Members of Parliament urging them to attend the summit. 

It said South Africa had “already significantly shaped Ukraine’s Peace Formula” (which will be discussed at the summit) during the preparatory national security advisers’ meetings held in Copenhagen, Jeddah, Malta and Davos.

The UKZA letter said the summit would discuss key issues of interest to South Africa. These included:

  • Confirming the inadmissibility of the use of nuclear weapons and ensuring the safety of nuclear facilities;
  • Ensuring free navigation in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, which is vital for global food security;
  • Addressing humanitarian issues, including the exchange of prisoners and the return of illegally detained, deported and displaced persons, especially children;
  • Reaffirming the commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of states within their internationally recognised borders; and
  • Restoring a comprehensive, just and lasting peace for Ukraine based on the UN Charter and key principles of international law.

‘Global effort needed’

Zelensky said the Global Peace Summit was necessary to show who really wanted to end the war, “and not just… a ceasefire which will inevitably be broken by Russian rockets and artillery just like it was dozens of times before.

“Does Russia want a dialogue? Ukraine has the world’s largest experience of lies from Russia during negotiations… Lies that in particular were Russian cover-ups for preparing this war,” he added.

Read more in Daily Maverick: War in Ukraine

The Ukrainian president said Kharkiv – “unfortunately very close to the border of Russia” – was experiencing its third year of the constant terror of being shelled every day and night by the Russian army, causing “indiscriminate destruction.”

“Just like all other Russian strikes on hundreds of other of our cities and villages,” he said, as the camera panned to images of the scorched shells of other places like Bakhmut and Avdiivka.

And Zelensky said Russia was now grouping its forces just across the border for another ground assault on Kharkiv.

“And that’s exactly why global efforts are needed…” he said.

“There is no nation that can stop such a war alone, unaided – world leaders’ engagement is needed.”

He said that more than 80 countries had confirmed they would attend the summit, but so far Biden and Xi had not.

Ukraine has not invited Russia to the summit because it says Moscow would simply demand its surrender.

But it says it will invite Russia to a further summit once the global community has agreed on a peace formula. DM

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