African leaders and senior politicians from seven countries are visiting Ukraine and Russia to find some middle ground for the warring parties to start peace talks.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and other African heads of state arrived earlier to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, before talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in St Petersburg on Saturday.
They are hoping to encourage the Ukrainian and Russian leaders to agree to, “a diplomacy-led process of negotiations.”
Accompanying Ramaphosa are Senegal’s Macky Sall, Zambia’s Hakainde Hichilema and Comoros President Azali Assoumani, who currently heads the African Union and senior politicians from Uganda, Egypt and the Congo.
What we know about their peace proposal
The delegation is proposing a series of “confidence-building measures” during initial efforts at mediation, according to a draft framework document seen by Reuters.
The list of possible measures reportedly includes a pull-back of Russian troops, removal of tactical nuclear weapons from neighboring Belarus, the suspension of an International Criminal Court arrest warrant targeting Putin, as well as sanctions relief.
The document also reportedly includes an “unconditional grain and fertilizer deal,” exports of which have been disrupted by the conflict, hitting African economies hard.
“This peace mission is the first time that Africa is united behind the resolution of a conflict outside of our continent, and where you have a group of African heads of state and government traveling together in an attempt to find a path to peace to this conflict,” Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Vincent Magwenya, said in a video he posted on Twitter.
Competing peace plans
African countries have been divided over their response to the war, some siding with Ukraine, while others have remained neutral or gravitated towards Moscow.
Ramaphosa in particular will be keen to improve South Africa’s reputation with Western nations after facing criticism from the United States regarding its relationship with Russia..
The African peace effort is just one of several competing initiatives striving to end the war.
In May, China, which has presented its own peace proposal, dispatched a high-level representative to Kyiv, Moscow, and various European capitals to discuss a “political resolution.” The Vatican recently elaborated on its own peace mission.
Kyiv has repeatedly said it would only accept a complete withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine, including areas illegally annexed by Moscow.
The Kremlin, meanwhile said, it remains ready to listen and open to third-party initiatives even as it says the conditions for a peace process are currently not in place.
lo, mf/fb (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)