Table of Contents
Saudi Arabia Hosts Crucial Peace Talks: China Steps In, Russia Excluded.
In a significant diplomatic maneuver, China has announced its decision to dispatch a high-ranking official to Saudi Arabia for negotiations aimed at resolving the Ukraine conflict—a forum Russia has not been invited to attend. This development is perceived as a diplomatic victory for Ukraine, Western nations, and Saudi Arabia.
The Jeddah-based talks will bring together national security advisors and other top-ranking representatives from approximately 40 nations, with the goal of reaching consensus on pivotal principles for a potential peace agreement to terminate Russia’s military engagement in Ukraine. The Chinese delegate for the discussions will be Li Hui, the Special Envoy for Eurasian Affairs, as revealed by China’s foreign ministry.
According to Reuters, Chinese authorities have emphasized their commitment to collaboration with the international community, aiming to be instrumental in advancing a political resolution to the Ukraine crisis, according to Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson for the Chinese ministry.
Earlier, China had received an invitation to participate in a similar round of discussions held in Copenhagen in late June, but chose not to attend. Despite the international community’s appeals to censure Moscow, China has maintained a robust economic and diplomatic relationship with Russia since the latter’s incursion into Ukraine in February the previous year.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has expressed optimism that these negotiations could pave the way for a global “peace summit” in the fall, where the principles for a settlement—based on Zelenskiy’s 10-point strategy—would be ratified. This strategy stipulates respect for Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty and the pull-out of Russian forces, points which Moscow, asserting its permanent annexation of the occupied Ukrainian territory, vehemently opposes.
However, hopes for direct peace negotiations between Ukraine and Russia seem bleak as the conflict persists and Ukraine endeavors to regain control of the seized territories through a counter-offensive. Ukraine’s strategic objective is to consolidate a broader coalition of diplomatic allies beyond its Western supporters by reaching out to countries in the Global South, such as India, Brazil, and South Africa, many of which have chosen to remain publicly impartial.
Russia, for its part, declared earlier this week that it would monitor the Jeddah discussions, while reiterating its stance that it currently sees no basis for peace talks with Kyiv. “We need to comprehend the objectives and the agenda of the discussions. Any efforts aimed at promoting a peaceful resolution should be positively regarded,” stated Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Monday.
Western diplomats have expressed doubt about the likelihood of achieving a full endorsement of Zelenskiy’s peace proposal at the talks. However, their primary aim is to secure strong support for principles embodied in the U.N. Charter, such as territorial integrity.
Given the hesitance of the U.S. and its allies to embrace a peace initiative led by Beijing, experts have questioned whether China would aim to occupy a prominent role in the conference. “I don’t foresee the Chinese steering the agenda,” said Jon Alterman, the head of the Middle East program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He believes that China’s decision to participate is more likely driven by the desire for prestige and an opportunity to build relationships with Middle Eastern and Global South nations.
Saudi Arabia’s diplomatic influence has been crucial in persuading Beijing to join the Jeddah discussions, as revealed by a German official. The Saudi state news agency SPA anticipates the meeting will bolster “dialogue and cooperation… to ensure a solution for the crisis through political and diplomatic means.”
Western and Ukrainian officials have noted Saudi Arabia’s aspiration to assume a leading diplomatic role. They believe the meeting will be more acceptable to Beijing with Saudi Arabia as the host, as it won’t be perceived as a Western construct, according to Yun Sun, the director of the China Program at the Stimson Center in Washington.
To garner support from Global South countries, Western officials plan to highlight the impact of Russia’s actions on food prices, which have surged since Russia abandoned an agreement ensuring safe transit of Ukrainian grain via the Black Sea and launched multiple airstrikes on Ukraine’s ports. A high-ranking EU official confirmed their intention to make this point “loud and clear.”
Topics: China’s Role in Ukraine Peace Talks, Peace Talks in Jeddah, Russia’s Absence from Peace Talks, Saudi Arabia’s Diplomatic Role, Ukraine Conflict Resolution, Global South and Diplomacy, East-West Diplomatic Developments
Featured image source: wikimedia