Can we end the Ukraine war in Sharm El-Sheikh?

Abdel-Rahman Salaheddin
Wednesday 12 Oct 2022

World leaders are scheduled to meet next month in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm El-Sheikh to attend the UN Climate Change Conference COP27 try to save the planet from the hazards of climate change.


No serious international action is being taken, meanwhile, to stop the war in Ukraine that could end up triggering a devastating nuclear war. The world is recklessly facing the danger of annihilation. US President Joe Biden said the world is the closest it has come to nuclear catastrophe in 60 years.

Political leaders in Russia and the West are more focused on energy prices and proving the superiority of their respective military equipment and armaments. They are betting on the political collapse of their opponents as their people may not be able to tolerate more economic suffering during the harsh winter months.

People in less developed countries are paying dearly for this war of control and dominance. Staggering prices of food and energy have drastically diminished the ability of many developing economies to meet their people’s basic needs, threatening political stability in dozens of countries.

We should urgently act to stop this war before it becomes a threat to the very existence of our species. I believe that the environment summit in Sharm El-Sheikh should remind us that irrespective of who wins or loses in Ukraine, our collective ability to face the range of new global threats will have been diminished, perhaps irreparably. Coming at a crucial time, this international meeting could also turn into a gathering for peace that would start a process to end the conflict in Ukraine. What happens on the sidelines of international gatherings is often as important as what is included in the official agenda.

Recent developments in the eight months of war might have opened some space for compromise. Russian leaders must have recognised that their military superiority over Ukraine is well balanced by the Western determined military support of the Ukrainian defences. Western strategists should have also come to the conclusion that NATO’s expansion must take into consideration Russian security concerns.

I believe that the UN Security Council can and should immediately pass a unanimous resolution calling for a ceasefire in Ukraine at locations presently held by the warring parties’ forces. While Russia has vetoed any Western draft resolution at the council that tried to criticise Russian actions, it would not object to a ceasefire that would open the door for negotiations.

On the sidelines of the environmental talks in Sharm El-Sheikh next month, Western and Russian leaders should discuss a political deal that could include the future of Ukrainian security relations with the West. In return, a roadmap should be drawn to lift Western sanctions against Russia, including those in the fields of finance, energy, and technology.

I do not expect politicians of these major powers to act only in response to my recommendation. They need to hear an outcry from their own people to stop this madness. I also expect big cartels of oil, gas, and military industries to oppose such a call for peace for obvious self-interested purposes. The maximalist on both sides would also try to make achieving peace impossible by insisting on what would not be acceptable to the other side.

A clear majority of international public opinion opposes the use of force to acquire territories of other nations or to dominate those nations by more powerful neighbours. Unfortunately, we have not been able to enforce this principle to end the Israeli conflict with Arab neighbouring countries other than Egypt and Jordan.

World public opinion also opposes all proxy wars which are meant to change the strategic and military balance in Europe or to stop the transition of the global order into a multipolar one. We cannot condone a war that would go on until the death of the last Ukrainian or Russian soldier. A threat of limited or global nuclear war should serve as enough stimulus to expeditiously and collectively act to avert this dreadful result.

We count on sensible people all over the world to call on their governments to stop this madness. Globalised communications and social media tools should empower those sane voices to overcome expansionist and imperialist circles of power that stand behind the continuation of this dreadful war. This is why I submitted a shorter version of this article to the New York Times for publication in its Op-ed section. Unfortunately, it has not yet been published.

I am publishing this personal idea of mine, in Arabic and English, in Egypt hoping it would be supported by the public opinion and the government in my country, the rest of the Arab world and most other countries. Sharm El-Sheikh summit could provide a unique and timely forum to start a process of reconciliation and negotiation that would end this dreadful war and save our world from an approaching Armageddon. 


*Abderahman Salaheldin is a retired Egyptian ambassador whose views do not necessarily represent the official Egyptian policy. He served as ambassador to Turkey and the Czech Republic where he earned his PhD in political science. He writes and lectures about Middle Eastern and international relations.

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