Steeplejacks wave a flag after they installed the Ukrainian official coat of arms, also known as the tryzub, replacing the coat of arms of the former Soviet Union which was previously removed, on the shield of the 62-meter (102 meters with pedestal) Motherland Monument in Kyiv, on August 6, 2023, amid Russian attacks in Ukraine. Image Credit: AFP

Jeddah: A senior Ukrainian official said on Sunday that talks in Saudi Arabia to make headway towards a peaceful settlement of the war with Russia had been productive, but Moscow called the meeting a doomed attempt to swing the Global South behind Kyiv.

More than 40 countries, including China, India, the United States, and European countries, but not Russia, took part in the Jeddah talks that ended on Sunday without any written concluding statement.

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A peace plan pitched by Ukraine and its allies brought little in the way of concrete steps to stop the war or reverse Russia’s territorial gains.

The most tangible outcome from the Jeddah meetings was a plan to form working groups under various points of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s 10-point “peace formula” “- on areas including food supply and nuclear security “- according to people familiar with the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they’re not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

While Zelensky’s Chief of Staff Andriy Yermak praised the consultations, representatives for China stuck to calls for a ceasefire as a precursor to peace talks “- an approach that French delegates said was unacceptable because it would effectively freeze Russia’s gains in place.

“We have had very productive consultations about key principles on which just and strong peace has to be built,” Yermak said in comments posted on the website of the presidential office. “There were different points of view, but all the attendees declared allegiance to UN principles, international law and respect to sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Withdrawal of all Russian troops

Ukraine is seeking to build international support for its framework for potential peace talks and a lasting deal, prospects that so far seem remote as the war nears its 18th month.

Ukraine and its allies have said the talks are an attempt to secure broad international support for principles that Kyiv wants to be the basis for peace, including the withdrawal of all Russian troops and the return of all Ukrainian territory to its control.

President Volodymir Zelensky has said he wants a global summit to take place based on those principles later this year.

Eighteen months after Russia launched attacks on Ukraine, any prospect of direct peace talks between Kyiv and Moscow appears remote.

Speaking about the Jeddah talks, Zelensky’s head of staff Andriy Yermak said in a statement: “We had very productive consultations on the key principles on which a just and lasting peace should be built.” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was quoted by state media on Sunday as saying the meeting was “a reflection of the West’s attempt to continue futile, doomed efforts” to mobilise the Global South behind Zelenskiy’s position.

While Western countries have broadly backed Ukraine, many other states have been reluctant to take sides even though they want an end to a conflict that has hit the global economy.

The participation of China, which stayed away from an earlier round of talks in Copenhagen and has shunned Western calls to condemn Russia’s war, signalled a possible shift in its stance but not a major change, analysts said.

Western diplomats have also emphasised Saudi Arabia’s role in convening a wider group of countries to take part, utilising its growing relationship with Beijing and its continued ties with both Moscow and Kyiv.

Yermak said different viewpoints emerged during the talks in Saudi Arabia, calling them “an extremely honest, open conversation”.

He said all the countries present had demonstrated a commitment to the principles of international law and respect for the sovereignty and inviolability of the territorial integrity of states.

Russia mounts massive missile and drone attack
Moscow unleashed a massive missile and drone barrage on western Ukraine Sunday, following through on its promise to retaliate for a Ukrainian attack on a Russian tanker.
Russian and Ukrainian shelling across the country overnight killed in at least six people, officials said.
Separately, Moscow’s second-largest airport briefly suspended flights early Sunday following a foiled drone attack near the Russian capital.
Ukraine’s air force said Russia launched 70 attack drones and missiles, including cruise missiles from aircraft over the Caspian Sea and Iranian-made, Shahed-136/131 strike UAVs.
Serhiy Tyurin, deputy head of Ukraine’s Khmelnytsky region military administration, said three waves of missiles hit the Starokostiantyniv area, damaging several buildings and igniting a fire at a warehouse. The strike may have been intended for the city’s airfield, officials said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the facilities of aircraft engine manufacturer Motor Sich in the Zaporizhzhia region had also come under attack.
The Russian barrage came after a Ukrainian drone attack on a Russian tanker in the Black Sea near Crimea late Friday. Ukraine also struck a major Russian port with drones earlier the same day.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova condemned what she called a Ukrainian “terrorist attack” on a civilian vessel in the Kerch Strait.
“There can be no justification for such barbaric actions, they will not go unanswered and their authors and perpetrators will inevitably be punished,” Zakharova posted on the Telegram messaging app.
An official with Ukraine’s Security Service confirmed to The Associated Press that a Ukrainian drone packed with 450 kilograms (992 pounds) of explosive the service struck the tanker that as transporting fuel for Russian forces. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.
Russia’s Federal Agency for Marine and River Transport posted on Telegram that although the drone blasted a hole in the tanker’s engine room, there were no casualties among the 11 crew members. On Sunday, a Ukrainian missile hit the Chonhar bridge that connects the Russian-occupied Kherson region and northern Crimea.