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29 Mar, 2024 10:40

Ukraine could talk with Russia after Swiss summit – FM

Moscow has expressed no interest in the conference, saying it will revolve around Kiev’s ‘peace formula’ that it has long rejected
Ukraine could talk with Russia after Swiss summit – FM

Ukraine could engage in diplomacy with Russia after a peace summit in Switzerland planned for later this year, Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba has suggested. Moscow has never ruled out engagement with Kiev but signaled it has no intention of attending the conference in the alpine nation.

Last month, Bern announced plans to organize a high-level Ukraine peace conference “by the summer” with a focus on Kiev's ten-point ‘peace formula’ first floated by President Vladimir Zelensky in late 2022. 

The initiative calls for the withdrawal of Moscow’s troops from territory Kiev claims as its own, as well as establishing a tribunal to prosecute top Russian officials for alleged war crimes. Russia has dismissed the proposal as “detached from reality.”

Meanwhile, neither the date nor a list of participants for the Swiss-hosted summit has been made public. Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis said last week that the final decision on the matter – including whether the event will take place at all – will come in mid-April, noting that holding two parallel conferences remains an option.

In an interview with the Indian broadcaster NDTV on Thursday, Kuleba stressed that summit participants would be free to pick and choose which points of the formula they wanted to work on – such as food or energy security or prisoner exchanges. 

“[If] you want to work on the exchange of prisoners, but you do not want to work on bringing Russian leadership to account for war crimes committed in Ukraine, that’s fine... It allows us to have more countries on board,” the Ukrainian minister explained.

According to Kuleba, the first summit would involve countries working on the issues of their preference, forming groups and action plans. 

“Then, in between the first and second summits, communication with Russia can take place, according to the rules agreed by participants,” he said, adding that “we [must] make sure that Russia does not have a chance to obstruct the summit, the peace process as such.”

Zelensky banned all talks with the current leadership in Moscow in the autumn of 2022 after four former Ukrainian regions overwhelmingly voted to join Russia.

Moscow maintains it is open to negotiations with Kiev. However, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said earlier this month that Moscow would not attend the Swiss-hosted summit even if invited, arguing that it “will be dedicated to promoting the ultimatum ‘Zelensky peace formula.’”

She further noted that Switzerland – which joined Western sanctions over Ukraine against Moscow – “can hardly serve as a platform for various peacekeeping efforts.”