Swiss Summit: Can diplomacy end the war in Ukraine?

The Burgenstock summit showcased Ukraine’s resolve and the global community’s mixed response.

Peace Summit in Switzerland scaled
Stansstad, Switzerland, June 15, 2024. Urs Flueeler/Pool via REUTERS

World leaders and delegations gathered in Switzerland for two days to discuss a peaceful end to the Russia-Ukraine conflict. This meeting, intended to set a course for resolving the conflict, was Ukraine’s diplomatic attempt to mobilise international support for its peace plan.

The arguments

President Zelensky noted that the conference was an important step, even though more could have been accomplished. He dismissed worries about non-signatories, saying they might still support the communique after more deliberation. Despite persistent tactical setbacks and tardy Western military supplies, Zelensky was determined to secure additional backing.

Moscow’s influence and key absences

The conference underlined Moscow’s tangible influence. On the eve of the summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin repeated his position, calling for Ukraine to surrender. The absence of significant global players such as China called into doubt the summit’s overall efficiency.

US aid and global concern

US Vice President Kamala Harris, who attended the summit, proposed a $1.5 billion aid package for humanitarian efforts and infrastructure rehabilitation in Ukraine. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen highlighted the global concern about Russia’s aggression.

Ukraine’s call for peace

Zelensky reaffirmed that Ukraine’s need for peace does not indicate weakness but rather a steadfast desire for a fair conclusion, despite the summit’s mixed results. Speaking during the conference, former soldier Maksym Kolesnikov repeated this idea, stressing the importance of a solid peace that protects Ukraine’s independence and territorial integrity.

Future discussions and uncertain prospects

Working groups will carry on the conversations started in Burgenstock in the future. According to reports, Russia may be invited to a hypothetical second leaders’ meeting that Ukraine has alluded to, possibly hosted by Saudi Arabia. But Putin doesn’t seem to be too interested in having serious peace talks right now.

Complex dynamics and road ahead

The abrupt termination of the summit and the uneven outcomes brought to light the intricate dynamics at work. Zelensky had the opportunity to reaffirm his assertion that Russia only reacts to strength, but the road to peace is still paved with challenges.

The facts

The summit took place at a critical time for Ukraine, which is under increasing pressure from repeated Russian offensives near Kharkiv. Despite this, the Ukrainian delegation, led by President Volodymyr Zelensky, attempted to use diplomacy to delay the full-scale invasion.

Of the approximately 90 countries involved, 84 endorsed a statement confirming Ukraine’s territorial integrity. Notably, key nations such as Saudi Arabia, India, and South Africa boycotted, while China, Russia’s close ally, did not attend. Moscow was not invited to the summit.

The communique endorsed the values of sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as pledges to preserve food exports, secure nuclear sites, and speed up the repatriation of detainees and children forcefully removed from occupied countries. The meeting concluded early, falling short of an unreserved success for Ukraine.

 

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