Switzerland to hold Ukraine peace conference ‘by the summer’

By Thomson Reuters Feb 23, 2024 | 11:41 AM

By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Switzerland told the United Nations on Friday that it intends to organize a high-level Ukraine peace conference “by the summer” as the 193-member world body met to mark the second anniversary of Moscow’s invasion of its neighbor.

Ukraine is seeking to rally support for President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s 10-point peace plan amid signs of war fatigue as the front lines remain largely unchanged and the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza has become a more pressing focus of global attention.

“At Ukraine’s request, we intend to organize by the summer a high-level conference on peace in Ukraine,” Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis told the U.N. General Assembly. “I would therefore like to take this opportunity to invite all nations … to work together towards our common goal.”

Zelenskiy’s peace plan envisages the restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, withdrawal of all Russian troops, protection of food and energy supplies, nuclear safety, and the release of all prisoners of war.

“Russia cannot ignore the voice of the world majority if we all take a principled stance and act together. The peace formula … represents exactly such an opportunity,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told the General Assembly.

The United Nations has overwhelmingly isolated Russia for its Feb. 24, 2022, invasion of Ukraine by calling for a “comprehensive, just and lasting peace” and demanding Moscow withdraw its troops and stop fighting.

“One should not waste time on Kyiv’s futile plans to negotiate on the basis of Zelinsky’s so-called peace formula,” said Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia.

“It is nothing other than an ultimatum to Russia and an attempt to lure as many countries as possible into endless meetings on this utopian project,” he added.

Ukraine’s war effort relies on Western support for money and equipment. Ammunition supplies have become a critical issue for Kyiv as fighting has descended into grinding artillery battles. The approval of billions of dollars in further U.S. military aid has been delayed for months in Congress.

“I cannot imagine explaining that we are tired, to the people I met in Ukraine,” U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield said. “Those Ukrainians – those families who cannot afford to be fatigued – are counting on us.”

“To defend the United Nations Charter, and hold those who violate it to account. To resist division and fatigue. To come together to push for diplomacy, for dialogue, and for a just, durable peace,” she said.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Paul Grant and Jonathan Oatis)