Zelensky discusses peace summit on surprise Saudi visit

AFP , Wednesday 12 Jun 2024

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, on an unannounced visit to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, said he discussed preparations for a peace summit this weekend with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Zelensky Saudi Arabia
A handout picture provided by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) on June 12, 2024, shows Ukraine s President Volodymyr Zelensky (L) meeting with Saudi Arabia s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman in Jeddah. AFP


Zelensky landed in the Red Sea city of Jeddah for his latest trip to the Gulf kingdom, which has sought to stay neutral in Ukraine's war with Russia.

In a post on social media, he said he held an "energetic meeting" with the Saudi crown prince.

"We also discussed the inaugural Global Peace Summit preparations, its expected outcomes and their possible implementation, as well as ways to bring true peace for Ukraine closer."

Zelensky has travelled the world in recent weeks to rally support and attendance for the peace summit scheduled to take place in Switzerland this weekend.

He has visited traditional allies in the European Union as well as countries in the Middle East and Asia with closer relations with Russia.

Earlier this month, he visited Singapore, the Philippines and Qatar.

Representatives from about 90 countries are expected to gather in Switzerland to discuss Kyiv's plan to end the war.

Zelensky has convinced many officials to attend through in-person visits.

Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest crude oil exporter, works closely with Moscow on oil policy and has touted its ties to both Moscow and Kyiv since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, positioning itself as a possible mediator in the war.

The kingdom has not yet confirmed whether it will take part in the summit, Gulf region diplomats told AFP last week.

The summit comes as Russia has made some gains on the battlefield in eastern Ukraine, with Kyiv's forces struggling due to a lack of troops and ammunition.

'Multi-polar' diplomacy 

Zelensky has called on Ukraine's allies to step up air defence deliveries for Kyiv.

As Zelensky arrived in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, Kyiv said a Russian strike on his hometown of Kryvyi Rig killed eight people and wounded two dozen more.

In September 2022, Riyadh played an unexpected role in brokering the release of foreign fighters detained in Ukraine, including two from the United States and five from Britain.

A Saudi official said in March 2023 that Riyadh remained open to contributing to mediation, especially "on important minor issues that may help cumulatively in the end to have a political solution of the whole issue".

In May 2023, Zelensky attended an Arab League summit in Jeddah, where he accused some leaders of turning "a blind eye" to the horrors of Russia's invasion.

In August last year, Saudi Arabia hosted talks on the war with representatives from more than 40 countries, excluding Russia.

Saudi officials said at the time that the meeting, which included officials from China and Brazil, highlighted its "multi-polar" approach to foreign policy.

Zelensky last visited Saudi Arabia in February, discussing his peace plan and a potential prisoner exchange with Prince Mohammed.

Saudi Arabia has pledged hundreds of millions of dollars in relief to Ukraine, including allocations for Ukrainian refugees in neighbouring countries.

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