Ukraine, Switzerland to Host New Round of Peace Talks

Politics - January 26, 2024

Switzerland will host a global peace summit on Ukraine in the near future, President Viola Amherd announced after meeting Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelenski during the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos.

The news of a new summit to continue negotiations on ending the conflict in Ukraine comes amid the disappointment of the Davos summit, which the whole world is watching these days, waiting for a breakthrough in resolving the problem. Unfortunately, in the small Swiss resort, host of the traditional annual meeting of world leaders, Zelensky has only managed to get a confirmation of sympathy from his outspoken supporters. The Kiev leader’s desire for talks with the leaders of superpower China, which supports Russia, went unfulfilled. For this reason, a Chinese presence at the upcoming summit in Switzerland seems – if not crucial, at least extremely important. The aim of the talks is to build a global alliance to support Ukraine’s demands. And for this to happen, China needs to be at the table. It remains to be seen whether the co-organisers will decide that the world is ready to accept Russia at the negotiating table. So far, however, Russia is not willing to negotiate, according to officials in Bern before Davos. Or, in its absence, only intermediate steps, no matter how decisive, can be taken in the talks, since negotiating a treaty also presupposes the presence of the aggressor.

Overseas media reported on Zelensky’s absence from the first day of the WEF, sending his chief of staff to the opening, and the fact that the only breakthrough was a larger and more diverse group photo than at the previous meeting of the Ukraine peace formula in Malta. And that’s because the summit in the Swiss Alps was attended by more than 80 heads of state, compared to the one in Malta, where there were fewer than 70. The presence in Davos, a first for the peace formula, of new players – such as Russia-friendly South Africa and Brazil – was listed as “good news”, however. But even the good news was overshadowed by the absence from the table of representatives from China, who did not attend the latest peace formula meetings. In the absence, at the end, of a joint public statement by the 83 leaders present, the conclusion of the Financial Times publicists seems to be justified.

Quoting a source who spoke about the progress of the talks, the Financial Times journalists pointed out that, “while it was a good discussion, you’re not making real diplomatic progress in trying to establish the parameters of a peace treaty in an 83-delegation setting.” 

On the other hand, at the WEF’s opening, Swiss diplomatic chief Ignazio Cassis admitted that for the format to succeed in building a global alliance that supports Ukraine’s demands, China is needed at the table. China’s Premier Li Qiang attended the WEF, where on the second day he spoke about how safe his country is for investment. But the Chinese leader did not attend the peace formula talks the previous day. There was also no meeting between him and Volodimir Zelenski, despite speculation fuelled by statements from the Ukrainian president, who stressed the country’s vital role in the talks. In fact, no such meeting was scheduled, as the Ukrainian side finally stated officially.

Switzerland to host new summit for peace talks in Ukraine

Even if progress in the Davos talks is insignificant, Zelenski has secured a promise from Switzerland to host a new peace formula summit. The announcement was made by the two presidents – of Switzerland and Ukraine – after their meeting before the Ukrainian president travelled to Davos. In Bern and Zurich, Zelenski met both President Viola Amhert and the Prime Minister of the Swiss Confederation, Ignazio Cassis.

“At the request of the Ukrainian president, Switzerland has agreed to host a summit on the peace formula,” the Swiss government announced, according to Reuters.

Neither Zelensky nor Swiss officials have specified a date or venue for the summit, nor a list of participants, saying only that “more details are being worked out”. At the same time, to underline the urgency, but also the fact that, at least on the co-organisers’ side, there are no reservations, the two sides pointed out that the summit would start the next day.

Zelenski suggested that the list of participants was open to “all countries that respect our sovereignty and territorial integrity, but mentioned the Global South, which he said he would like to see. Another expected participant in the talks is China. The day before Zelensky left for Switzerland, Kiev had announced that it was vital that Beijing, one of Moscow’s key allies, participate in the talks to end the conflict.

“It is important for us to show that the whole world is against Russia’s aggression and the whole world is for a just peace,” Zelenski stressed.

Chinese Premier Li Qiang and his delegation would have had many opportunities to meet Zelensky’s team face to face, either in Bern or Davos, but this did not happen.

A new Cold War could be on the horizon

At the heart of the peace formula talks is Zelenski’s 10-point plan for a just and lasting peace in Ukraine. It provides for the restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, withdrawal of Russian troops, protection of food and energy supplies, nuclear safety and the release of all prisoners. The plan was launched at the G20 meeting in Indonesia, which the Ukrainian leader called the “G19”, excluding Russia, although it was represented by the head of diplomacy, Sergei Lavrov.

Zelenski presented his 10-point plan to representatives of the major powers on the Indonesian island of Bali, although the war in Ukraine was not on the official G20 agenda, yet the issue dominated the agenda amid concerns that the conflict is dividing the world’s nations. These concerns were voiced by the host of the event, Indonesian President Joko Widodo , who called in his opening speech for an “end to war” and warned of a possible new Cold War.

Zelenski has been promoting this plan intensively, including at the White House, as US support for the war in Ukraine has waned recently, especially amid tensions in the Middle East, and the fulfilment of some of Washington’s promises is now in doubt. In a fiery diplomatic tour, Zelenski has presented his proposals to US President Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose country has taken over the G20 presidency, among others. Later in December, the Ukrainian president urged the leaders of the G7 (Group of Developed Nations – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America) to support a global peace summit earlier this year to focus on this peace plan.

The response of the world’s “heavyweights” was cautious: they pledged to bring peace to Ukraine “in accordance with its rights as enshrined in the UN Charter”.

US, billions of dollars “invested” in Ukrainian conflict

US President Joe Biden’s statements at the end of December confirm a certain “fatigue” and loss of enthusiasm on the part of the US in supporting the war – in which it has so far invested billions of dollars:  Ukraine must be able to defend itself, and the US is committed to making sure that happens.

Even though there have been four rounds of peace formula talks in the past six months, the technical teams have not moved forward, and world leaders are giving no sign that negotiations are about to take the long-awaited turn.  Even if small progress has been made – with attendance at the talks gradually increasing – negotiating a peace treaty requires Russia’s presence. Or the West is not yet ready to sit face to face with it at the negotiating table.

“These are simply talks for the sake of talks.This process cannot aim to achieve a specific result for an obvious reason – we are not participating,” Moscow was quoted by Reuters as saying by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.