Tue. Jun 6th, 2023


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Putin and Zelensky ‘agree major summit to discuss plan to END war in Ukraine’

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The Russian and Ukrainian presidents have both agreed to hold separate meetings with a delegation of African heads of state to discuss a possible plan to end the war in Ukraine, according to South Africa’s president. Mr Ramaphosa said to have spoken separately over the phone with both Putin and Mr Zelensky at the weekend.

A statement from his office said both leaders have agreed to host “an African leaders’ peace mission” in Moscow and Kyiv respectively.

Putin and Mr Zelensky have both given him the go-ahead to “commence the preparations”, the president added.

The South African president also said leaders of Zambia, Senegal, Congo, Uganda and Egypt are planning to join him on the high-profile diplomatic mission. Neither details nor a timeline for the visits were provided at this stage.

Mr Ramaphosa also discussed the news during a press conference in Cape Town held as part of a state visit by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. The president said the ongoing conflict has been “devastating” and also hurt the African continent.

Indeed, many countries in Africa have been hit by rising prices of grain and by the impact the conflict has had on world trade.

African leaders, the South African president also said, have been discussing in recent months how they can facilitate the end of the war, started by the unlawful invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops in February 2022.

Mr Ramaphosa said: “This we have been talking about as African leaders, because we concluded that conflict in that part of the world, that much as it does not affect Africa directly in the form of deaths and destruction to our infrastructure, it does have an impact on the lives of many Africans with regards to food security. Prices of fertiliser, cereals and fuel have gone up.”

This groundbreaking announcement comes just hours after South Africa faced accusations by the US to have supplied Moscow with weapons and ammunition, something which would breach the country’s professed neutrality. South Africa’s defence minister, Thandi Modise, has denied this allegation.

António Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, was briefed on the African delegation’s planned meetings, Mr Ramaphosa said, adding he “welcomed the initiative”.

Last week, Mr Guterres said he didn’t believe peace talks between Kyiv and Moscow would be possible at this stage as “both sides are convinced they can win”.

Speaking to El Pais, he added: “At the moment, I do not see any possibility of achieving immediately – we are not talking about the future – a comprehensive ceasefire, a peace negotiation.”

The UN, he explained, was focused on talks with both Russia and Ukraine aiming to solve immediate issues such as extending the Black Sea grain deal, set to expire in two days.

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This comes after Mr Zelensky, whose country is preparing for a much-anticipated counter-offensive manoeuvre aiming at regaining some of the territories invaded by Russia, said he would not consider negotiations with Moscow until the nation pulled its troops from Ukraine’s territory and stopped its air bombardment.

On the first anniversary of the invasion in February, he said: “Everyone has seen that they killed and tortured people. They are not even trying to hide their attacks, they are talking about nuclear matters. Seeing this picture of the world, do you think Ukrainians can sit in this and negotiate?”

He also defiantly told Moscow: “Our right to live in our land needs to be respected. Leave our territory and withdraw and stop killing civilians and stop air strikes, stop killing dogs, cats and animals. Only after that we will tell you what form diplomacy might take.”

In January, the Ukrainian president had also told Sky News he doesn’t think Putin wants peace talks as he “doesn’t want peace”.

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