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Swiss summit on Ukraine set to thrash out path to peace

Geneva – Switzerland will stage a conference on Ukraine this coming weekend, with world leaders set to discuss how to reach an eventual peace process — although Russia is not taking part.

The gathering comes immediately after the G7 summit in southern Italy, running from Thursday to Saturday, during which the wealthy democracies will also discuss Ukraine in the presence of its president, Volodymyr Zelensky.

The G7 will look at ways to use frozen Russian assets to provide fresh aid to Ukraine, which was invaded by Russia in February 2022.

Zelensky will then head to Switzerland, to be joined by G7 and other leaders for the summit.

What is billed as the first “Summit on Peace in Ukraine” will take place at the luxury Burgenstock resort on a mountain ridge overlooking Lake Lucerne.

French President Emmanuel Macron, US Vice President Kamala Harris, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida are among those so far confirmed to be attending.

The aim “is to inspire a future peace process and to develop practical elements as well as steps towards such a process”, the Swiss foreign ministry said.

“All states present at the summit should contribute their ideas and visions for a just and lasting peace in Ukraine.”

Swiss President Viola Amherd, set to hold a press conference on preparations later on Monday, characterised it as a “first step” in a process towards a lasting peace.

Switzerland invited more than 160 delegations, including countries at heads of state and government level, and international organisations.

Bern says more than 80 confirmations have been received so far, mostly from Europe.

Organised at Ukraine’s request, the outcome of the conference remains uncertain, even if Switzerland is working hard to strike a potential final declaration.

“It is very important to avoid exaggerated expectations,” a German government source stressed, calling it a “building block for a peaceful settlement of this conflict”.

“But there will be further building blocks,” the source added.

– A ‘just end’ to war –

Ukraine hopes to gain broad international support on its conditions to end the war with Russia.

“The inaugural peace summit could become a format that would bring closer a just end to this war,” Zelensky said on June 7.

The conference was envisaged to involve plenary sessions with all heads present and discussions in smaller formats on various topics.

The programme, developed by Bern, draws on Zelensky’s 10-point peace plan but may focus on territorial sovereignty, a just peace in Ukraine and upholding the United Nations charter.

It may also tome in on three themes — nuclear security; freedom of navigation and food security; and humanitarian aspects, including prisoner exchanges.

“If we agree on this and other basic principles, we have already made progress,” the German government source said.

Swiss foreign ministry spokesman Nicolas Bideau told RTS television Switzerland would not leading the discussions in these areas but “the countries of the Global South, or the countries who have skills in this field”.

Laurent Goetschel, director of the Swisspeace research institute, told AFP: “The themes that will be addressed are not the most delicate but they are nevertheless important.

In the future, “addressing these themes jointly with Russian participants could facilitate establishing a basis of trust for future peace negotiations”.

– Russia’s stance –

The Kremlin has repeatedly indicated it will not participate in any negotiations if Kyiv does not accept Russia’s annexation of the approximately 20 percent of Ukrainian territory it currently occupies.

As Russia no longer considers Switzerland as neutral, Moscow said it was not interested in participating in the summit. Bern therefore did not issue an invitation.

However, “we are convinced that what can come out of this summit will ultimately allow the Russians to join in”, said Bideau.

From Russia’s core BRICS allies, India has said it will participate, while China, Brazil and South Africa are yet to clarify precisely where they stand.

For the Geneva-based US-Swiss political scientist Daniel Warner, “there are not enough important countries of the South” attending.

As for US President Joe Biden sending Harris, “the problem is if Biden had come” to the peace summit “and there was no real concrete result, the Republicans would immediately say that it is Biden’s fault”, Warner told AFP.

Democrat Biden facing a presidential election in November.

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