Switzerland to host Ukraine peace summit in June

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Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis planned a summit.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis planned a summit.

The Swiss government will host a two-day high-level conference in June aimed at achieving peace in Ukraine, it says, although Russia has made clear it will not take part in the initiative.

Switzerland said in January it would host a peace summit at the request of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and has since held talks with the European Union, G7 member states and countries such as China and India to garner their support.

“There is currently sufficient international support for a high-level conference to launch the peace process,” the Federal Council said in a statement.

The conference will be held June 15-16 at the Bürgenstock resort in the canton of Nidwalden outside the city of Lucerne. 

Russian soldiers
Russian forces launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. (EPA PHOTO)

It will aim to create a framework favourable to a comprehensive and lasting peace in Ukraine as well as “a concrete roadmap for Russia’s participation in the peace process”.

The summit is expected to draw top government officials from dozens of countries, following on a plan laid out by Zelenskiy and Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis in recent months.

“The first country that we spoke with – after Ukraine of course – was Russia, because a peace process cannot happen without Russia, even if it won’t be there for the first meeting,” Cassis told reporters on Wednesday in the Swiss capital Bern.

While Russia has said it is not against negotiations to end the war, Russian officials have said they will not take part in talks in Switzerland, a country they consider to have relinquished its neutrality with regard to the conflict.

Russia, which launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, has said the Swiss initiative is pointless without Russian participation.

“It has to be clear from the start that Russia – sooner or later – has to be there,” Foreign Minister Cassis said. 

“Now, it’s not mandatory that it’s there the first day. We could also imagine that on the first day, people might agree about how to better invite Russia.”

“We have to agree: that’s the backbreaking work ahead of us,” he added.

China, a Russian ally, said last month it would consider taking part in the conference.

China itself put forward a 12-point paper more than a year ago that set out general principles for ending the war but did not get into specifics. 

It received a lukewarm reception at the time in both Russia and Ukraine, although Russia’s foreign minister said this month that plan was the most reasonable of those presented by other countries so far.

Swiss President Viola Amherd said there was no guarantee June’s initiative would be a success and that it would not immediately yield a peace deal.

“The alternative would be to do nothing, and that would be irresponsible for the stability of Europe and also for Switzerland,” she told a press conference.

Cassis said formal invitations to take part in the conference would be issued to more than 100 countries this week.

In a telephone call, Zelenskiy and Amherd agreed to attract as many countries as possible to take part in the summit, the Ukrainian president’s office said on Wednesday.

Swiss authorities have yet to disclose a full list of participants.

After two years of war, Russia holds just under a fifth of Ukraine’s territory and accuses Ukraine’s allies of using it as a theatre to fight Russia.

Russia has repeatedly said it is open to talks but that these must recognise the “new realities on the ground”.

Ukraine demands the restoration of its territorial integrity and a full withdrawal of Russian forces as conditions for peace.

with AP

Reuters