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Security officials from 83 countries gathered in Davos on Sunday to discuss Ukraine’s demands for ending the war with Russia, in talks marked by rising non-western participation but limited progress towards peace.
Held on the eve of the World Economic Forum in the Swiss mountain resort, the meeting was the fourth called by Kyiv to promote its peace proposals, which include the full withdrawal of Russian troops from its territory. It took place as the war, which appears stuck in a grinding deadlock, nears the second anniversary of President Vladimir Putin’s full invasion.
The active participation of national security representatives from India, Brazil and Saudi Arabia, countries from the so-called Global South who maintain diplomatic relations with Russia, was hailed as a positive signal by western officials.
Andriy Yermak, chief of staff to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, told reporters after the meeting that “open and very constructive talks” had been held between “countries who want to be on the side . . . of peace.”
But the decision by China, Moscow’s most important ally, not to attend, undermined its importance, they added. Russia itself was not invited.
“The participation of the Brics alliance is very important because these countries have a relationship to Russia,” said Swiss foreign minister Ignazio Cassis, who is co-hosting the talks.
“China plays a significant role. We must find ways to work with China on this,” he added, in remarks to reporters partway through the talks.
Zelenskyy was not present at the talks but will speak at the World Economic Forum event in Davos on Tuesday, and is expected to hold bilateral meetings with other leaders then.
Yermak, when asked if Zelenskyy would meet Chinese prime minister Li Qiang, said: “Let’s see.”
The 83 delegations, including 18 from Asia and 12 from Africa, is significantly larger than the 65 that attended the last round of talks in Malta in October. That followed an initial meeting in Copenhagen and a follow-up in Jeddah.
One person briefed on the discussions said they involved “open dialogue, with some of the contradictions being addressed head on”.
Officials said some non-western states reiterated their position that Russia should be involved and that a settlement should address Moscow’s security concerns, such as Ukraine’s desire to join the Nato military alliance.
In response, the western nations who have backed Ukraine with weapons and financial support contended that developing nations with ties to Russia should use their influence to make clear to Moscow that its invasion is in breach of the UN charter and undermines global security.
“Of course, we have different thoughts on how it is possible to [achieve peace],” Yermak said of the various positions. “Some think that it is necessary to immediately sit at the table [with Russia].”
But all delegations were “very united on the main principles on which is based international law and the statute of the United Nations,” he added.
Cassis said it was “illusory to think that Russia would respond positively” to any invitation to talks, adding that Moscow was “not ready to take any step or make any concession”.