'Real Peace Closer For Ukraine' Despite Lack Of Consensus At Swiss Summit

(MENAFN- Swissinfo) Eighty-four out of around 100 states and organisations at the Ukraine peace conference in Switzerland have signed a joint communiqué. However, Swiss President Viola Amherd acknowledged there was no agreement on how and when Russia should be involved.

This content was published on June 16, 2024 - 16:39 7 minutes

Born in London, Thomas was a journalist at The Independent before moving to Bern in 2005. He speaks all three official Swiss languages and enjoys travelling the country and practising them, above all in pubs, restaurants and gelaterias.

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“The summit declaration sends a strong signal that changes are needed. There are common ideas for a fair and lasting peace,” Amherd said in her speech on Sunday at the end of the two-day conference at the Bürgenstock resort in central Switzerland. She gave the examples of securing nuclear facilities, of food security and Ukraine's access to its harbours, and of the release of all prisoners of war and the return of children deported from Ukraine.

+ Swiss summit kick-starts Ukraine peace process

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said these three themes amounted to“minimum conditions” for negotiations with Russia, alluding to how many other areas of disagreement between Kyiv and Moscow will be harder to overcome.

Participating countries that did not sign the final communiquéExternal link included Saudi Arabia, India, South Africa, Thailand, Indonesia, Mexico and the United Arab Emirates. Brazil, which was listed as an“observer” on the list of attendees, also did not feature as a signatory.

Viola Amherd and Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis (second from left) arrive at the 'Summit on Peace in Ukraine' on Friday Cc 3.0 By-Nc-Sa

The final document said the UN Charter and“respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty ... can and will serve as a basis for achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in Ukraine”.

Amherd said the fact that the“great majority” of participants agreed to the final document“shows what diplomacy can achieve”.

'Skills of Swiss diplomacy'

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, praised the hosts, saying it was a“testament to the skills of the Swiss diplomacy that you were able to bring together some 100 countries and international organisations at the highest level”.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hailed the“first steps toward peace” at the meeting, and said the joint communiqué remains“open for accession by everyone who respects the UN Charter”.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Kenyan President William Kipchirchir Ruto are singing the same tune. Keystone Pool / Alessandro Della Valle

However, initial reactions were somewhat muted.“Expectations of the meeting with 57 heads of state and government were modest – and they underwhelmed rather than overwhelmed,” reckoned Sebastian Ramspeck, international correspondent for Swiss public broadcaster, SRF.

“Particularly disappointing for Switzerland as host: there's no follow-up summit in another host country for the time being. Whether the Bürgenstock summit has initiated a peace process is therefore more than questionable.”

Russia, which was not invited and had made clear it did not want to attend, labelled the summit a waste of time and instead put forward rival proposals. China was another notable absentee.

+ Why China is staying away from the Swiss-led Ukraine peace process

Participants listen to a speech during the opening plenary session on Saturday. Keystone Pool / Urs Flueeler

So is peace in Ukraine any nearer? Yes, according to Ursula von der Leyen.“Real peace is closer for Ukraine,” she said. She stressed, however, that real peace wouldn't be achieved in one step and the path there would require patience and determination.“It will be a journey,” she said after the talks.

'Not a peace negotiation'

“It was not a peace negotiation because [Russia's President Vladimir] Putin is not serious about ending the war. He's insisting on capitulation, he's insisting on ceding Ukrainian territory – even territory that today is not occupied,” she said.

Managing expectations on Saturday, Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer said the“crucial take-away is that we've all come here, that we're talking, that many different nations and continents are talking to each other ... This is the essence of this conference. Peace and peace processes take time, working millimetre by millimetre”.

On Saturday around 50 Ukrainian refugees from choirs around Switzerland converged in the city of Lucerne to sing Beethoven's“Ode to Joy”, a choral work they said embodied their hopes for peace and freedom. Some singers wore embroidered national dress and crowns of flowers. Switzerland has accepted over 65,000 Ukrainian refugees since Russia's invasion in February 2022. Keystone / Walter Bieri

Striking a balance in the summit's final declaration between forthright condemnation of Russia's invasion of Ukraine and wording that commands the broadest possible support had been part of the diplomatic tug-of-war at the event.

Analysts had predicted the two-day conference would likely have little concrete impact towards ending the war because the country leading and continuing it, Russia, was not invited – for now. Its key ally, China, which did not attend, and Brazil, have jointly sought to plot alternative routes toward peace.


The meeting also tried to return a spotlight to the war at a time when conflict in Gaza, national elections and other concerns have seized global attention. Indeed, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was the only G7 leader to have attended both days of the conference. US Vice President Kamala Harris, French President Emmanuel Macron and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida were among those who left after a few hours. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz flew back to Berlin on Sunday morning. The delegations nevertheless continued their discussions.

On Sunday Trudeau said Canada planned to host a gathering of foreign ministers in the coming months to advance work on the human cost of the war in Ukraine.

From left: Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis, Swiss President Viola Amherd, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, US Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of Security Council of Armenia Armen Grigoryan, and Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer. On Saturday Harris announced more than $1.5 billion (CHF1.3 billion) in aid for Ukraine. Keystone Pool / Urs Flueeler

Despite these positive comments, significant differences remain. US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan on Sunday dismissed a peace proposal presented by Putin as unreasonable, saying meeting Moscow's demands would make Kyiv even more vulnerable to further aggression.

“Not only does Ukraine have to give up the territory that Russia currently occupies, but Ukraine has to leave additional sovereign Ukrainian territory,” Sullivan said. He noted that Kyiv would also be bound to disarm under the Russian proposal“so that it is vulnerable to future Russian aggression down the road”.

“No responsible nation can say that this is a reasonable basis for peace. It defies the UN Charter, it defies basic morality, it defies basic common sense,” Sullivan said.

Heads of state pose for the traditional 'family photo' on Saturday. Keystone Pool / Michael Buholzer

For his part, Putin is not ruling out talks with Ukraine, but he is ruling out speaking to the current Ukrainian president.“Volodymyr Zelensky is not the person with whom you can register an agreement in writing, because this registration is de jure illegitimate,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, according to the Russian news agency Tass, on Sunday.“However, Putin does not reject anything. He does not reject the possibility of negotiations, as provided for by the country's constitution,” Peskov added.

So what next? Zelensky said on Sunday that the conference in Switzerland should soon be followed by a second meeting. Such preparations would only take months and not years, he said, adding that some states had already signalled their willingness to host such a summit. The final declaration makes no mention of a follow-up conference.

Where to next? And who will do the heavy lifting? Keystone Pool / Alessandro Della Valle External Content Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again. Almost finished... We need to confirm your email address. To complete the subscription process, please click the link in the email we just sent you. Daily news

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