Senior officials from some 40 countries including the United States, China and India join talks in Saudi Arabia on Saturday that Kyiv and its allies hope will lead to agreement on key principles for a peaceful end to Russia’s war in Ukraine.
The two-day meeting is part of a big diplomatic push by Ukraine to build support beyond its core Western backers by reaching out to Global South countries that have been reluctant to take sides in a conflict that has hit the global economy.
It is not clear whether the talks are aimed at producing a joint statement however, and the Ukrainian envoy to the meeting said the conversation “will be difficult”.
“But behind us is truth, behind us – goodness,” said envoy Andriy Yermak, head of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s office, in a television interview published late on Friday.
Russia is not attending, though the Kremlin has said it will keep an eye on the talks. Ukrainian, Russian and international officials say there is no prospect of direct peace talks between Ukraine and Russia at present, with the war raging.
Zelenskiy has said he hopes the talks will lead to a peace summit of global leaders to endorse principles in his plan for a settlement, which demands Russia’s return of all Ukrainian territory and withdrawal of all its troops.
The world’s top oil exporter Saudi Arabia, which has maintained contacts with both sides since Russia invaded Ukraine last February, has played a role in convening countries that did not join earlier meetings, Western diplomats have said.
China, which did not attend a previous round of talks in Copenhagen, is sending Special Envoy for Eurasian Affairs Li Hui, Beijing said on Saturday. China has kept close economic and diplomatic ties with Russia since the conflict began and has rejected calls to condemn Moscow.
“We have many disagreements and we have heard different positions, but it is important that our principles are shared,” he said.
Indian National Security Adviser Shri Ajit Doval has also arrived in Jeddah for the talks, the Indian embassy in Riyadh said on social media on Saturday. Like China, India has kept close ties with Russia and refused to condemn it for the war. It has ramped up imports of Russian oil.