Senior officials from around 40 countries, including major global powers like the U.S., China, and India, gathered in Saudi Arabia for a two-day meeting aimed at achieving key principles for a peaceful resolution to Russia’s war in Ukraine. This diplomatic initiative by Ukraine seeks to expand its support beyond its traditional Western backers by engaging with countries in the Global South who have remained largely neutral in the conflict. The Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, emphasized the importance of bilateral talks and highlighted the need to restore the rules-based international order. Notably, Russia did not participate in the meeting, but Ukrainian, Russian, and international officials affirm that direct peace talks between Ukraine and Russia are not currently feasible due to ongoing hostilities.
Objective of the Meeting
While the meeting did not produce a joint statement, the Saudi hosts plan to propose further discussions, with working groups discussing topics such as global food security, nuclear safety, and prisoner releases. An EU official described the talks as positive, with an agreement on the significance of respecting Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty in any peace settlement. The meeting aimed to lay the groundwork for a potential summit of global leaders in the autumn, spearheaded by President Zelenskyy. By engaging countries that have maintained ties with Russia, including China and India, Ukraine seeks to broaden its support base and gather international consensus on resolving the conflict.
China’s participation in the talks marks a significant development. Beijing’s Special Envoy for Eurasian Affairs, Li Hui, attended the meeting, indicating China’s willingness to engage in discussions. China has been an influential economic and diplomatic ally to Russia throughout the conflict and has refrained from condemning Moscow. India, too, has maintained close ties with Russia and has avoided condemning the war. Indian National Security Adviser Shri Ajit Doval joined the meeting, highlighting India’s continued engagement in resolving the conflict.
South Africa and Brazil’s Engagement
South Africa and Brazil, both members of the BRICS group along with Russia, China, and India, also participated in the meeting. South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa’s security adviser, Sydney Mufamadi, and Brazil’s top foreign policy adviser, Celso Amorim, joined the discussions. Their presence reinforces the broader international commitment to finding a peaceful resolution while representing their countries’ interests within the BRICS framework.
Saudi Arabia’s involvement and diplomatic efforts have been instrumental in bridging gaps and encouraging dialogue. As the world’s top oil exporter, Saudi Arabia’s influence reaches beyond its economic prowess. The Kingdom’s consistent engagement with both Ukraine and Russia has positioned it as a mediator in the conflict. Additionally, Saudi Arabia has accelerated efforts to strengthen ties with major global powers like China outside its traditional relationship with the United States. The kingdom has played a significant role in the stabilization of oil markets, mediated the prisoner swap between Ukraine and Russia, and expressed readiness to mediate in the war during an Arab League summit attended by President Zelenskyy. Saudi Arabia’s proactive diplomacy serves as a testament to its aspirations for an enhanced global role.
Analysis and Outlook
China’s presence at the meeting signifies support for Saudi Arabian diplomacy and their convening power. However, it does not necessarily imply China’s agreement with the outcomes sought by Ukraine and its allies. Participation in the meeting demonstrates a willingness to listen and engage in discussions, but final agreement is not guaranteed. Furthermore, the absence of Russia from the talks underscores the challenges of achieving direct peace negotiations at this time.
The Jeddah meeting is an important stride for Ukraine’s diplomatic efforts to rally international support for a peaceful resolution to the Russia-Ukraine conflict. The engagement of major powers like China and India, along with the participation of other influential countries, strengthens the potential for a globally supported solution. The continued involvement of Saudi Arabia as a mediator amplifies the significance of the talks, offering hope for progress in resolving the crisis.
In the coming months, President Zelenskyy’s proposed summit of global leaders will likely shape the next steps in resolving the conflict. The principles and agreements established at the Jeddah meeting will serve as a foundation for discussions at the summit, guiding the path towards a peaceful end to the war. As Ukraine expands its support base and engages countries from the Global South, the diplomatic landscape surrounding the conflict is evolving, creating opportunities for a multilateral resolution that respects Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.
The talks in Saudi Arabia represent a critical diplomatic endeavor to address the Russia-Ukraine conflict. By reaching out to countries beyond its traditional Western backers, Ukraine aims to garner broader international consensus. The participation of China, India, and other influential nations, coupled with Saudi Arabia’s mediating role, indicates a growing commitment to finding a peaceful resolution. As these efforts progress, it is vital to maintain momentum and continue engaging a wide range of stakeholders to achieve long-lasting peace and stability in the region.