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16 Jun, 2023 23:05

South African president calls on both Russia and Ukraine to ‘de-escalate’

Cyril Ramaphosa said the two countries should focus on finding a diplomatic resolution to the conflict
South African president calls on both Russia and Ukraine to ‘de-escalate’

Russia and Ukraine must defuse tensions and focus on achieving a lasting peace through negotiations, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Friday. 

“There are offensives on both sides. And we are saying that they must be de-escalated [so] both countries [could] proceed on the road to peace,” Ramaphosa said at a press conference after his meeting with Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky in Kiev.

Ramaphosa added that “even when the conflict becomes most intense, that is when peace should be made.” He stressed the importance of the UN Charter and said all countries “should have a sense of security” and have their sovereignty respected. 

The high-ranking African Union delegation, including the presidents of Senegal and Zambia and the prime minister of Egypt, arrived in Kiev on Friday as part of a mission to broker an end to the conflict between Ukraine and Russia. The delegation is headed for Russia next, where they are scheduled to meet with President Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg on Saturday. 

Zelensky had already dismissed the African offer, and downplayed their trip to Russia.

“To allow any negotiations with Russia now while the occupier is on our land is to freeze the war,” the Ukrainian president argued, reiterating his position that Moscow must first surrender Crimea, which voted to join Russia in 2014, and the four other regions that did the same in September 2022. 

Moscow has said in the past that it welcomes all efforts to broker peace. At the same time, Russian officials stressed that Ukraine must recognize the acquisition of new territories by Moscow in order for any meaningful negotiations to commence.