Ukraine is trying to garner international support for its peace plan in talks hosted by Saudi Arabia

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Ukraine and its allies are seeking international support for a peace plan at talks hosted by Saudi Arabia in days to come, but there are lingering questions about China’s participation.

Ukrainian and Western diplomats hope a meeting in Jeddah of national security advisers and senior officials from about 40 countries will result in agreement on basic principles that will form the basis of any peace settlement to end Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Wednesday he hoped the initiative would lead to a peace summit with world leaders this autumn to endorse the principles underpinning his 10-point plan for a peace settlement.

Ukrainian, Russian and international officials say there is no prospect of direct peace talks between Ukraine and Russia at the present time, given the continuation of the war and Kiev’s efforts to regain territory through a counter-offensive.

Officials indicated that they don’t expect Russia to participate in the Jeddah meeting, nor in the peace summit.

The Jeddah meeting expected to start on Friday, with its main discussions taking place on Saturday and Sunday.

Ukraine seeks first to expand the circle of diplomatic support for its vision of peace beyond the core group of its Western supporters by reaching out to countries in the Global South such as India, Brazil, South Africa, as well as Türkiye.

“One of the main goals of this round of negotiations will be to finally reach a general understanding on the nature of the ten points,” Zelensky’s senior diplomatic adviser, Ihor Zovkva, told Reuters on Thursday.

The ten points include calling for the restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and integrity, the complete withdrawal of Russian forces, the protection of food and energy supplies, nuclear safety, and the release of all prisoners.

Western officials admit that the initiative will only put limited pressure on Moscow without the participation of China, which has maintained strong economic and diplomatic ties with Russia and has rejected international calls to condemn its invasion of Ukraine.

Officials said on Thursday that it wasn’t clear whether Chinese officials would participate in the Jeddah talks either in person or via video conference.

China received an invitation to participate in a previous round of talks in Copenhagen in late June, but didn’t accept the invitation.

“I think it’s essential that not only India, Brazil and other key partners participate, but also that China sits at the table and discusses peace realistically,” said a senior European Commission official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Chinese ambassador to Ukraine attended meetings in Kiev on the peace initiative, adding that Ukraine is working to ensure China’s participation in the Jeddah talks.

Western officials say they will focus on the fact that food prices have jumped since Russia withdrew from a deal allowing safe export of Ukrainian grain across the Black Sea and Russia launched a series of air strikes on Ukrainian ports, in a bid to win support from countries in the southern hemisphere.

Saudi Arabia hasn’t commented publicly on the planned talks, but Ukrainian and Western officials said the kingdom’s decision to host the meeting reflects Riyadh’s desire to play a major diplomatic role in efforts to resolve the conflict.

Saudi Arabia and Türkiye mediated a major prisoner exchange between Ukraine and Russia last September.

Zelensky attended an Arab League summit in Saudi Arabia in May, and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman expressed at the summit his willingness to broker an end to the war.

Another senior EU official said Saudi Arabia had reached “areas of the world that Ukraine’s old allies cannot reach so easily”.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan expected to represent the United States in the talks.

“This is still the beginning of the process,” State Department spokesman Matt Miller said on Wednesday.

“Remember, there is still fighting going on in Ukraine,” he added.

In response to a question about the talks earlier this week, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia needs to understand the objectives of the talks and the discussions that will take place.

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