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Wednesday 12 June 2024

About 90 countries to take part in the Swiss-hosted Ukraine peace summit. Russia won’t attend

Switzerland — Nearly 90 countries and organizations, half from Europe, have confirmed attending the Swiss-hosted Ukraine peace summit over the weekend, Switzerland’s president said Monday. However, Russia won’t be there.

Moscow has not been invited but says it would not have attended anyway as the conference is based on the peace proposals of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that Russia rejects.

President Viola Amherd told reporters in the Swiss capital, Bern, that the summit, on Saturday and Sunday, will aim to chart a path toward possible peace nearly 28 months after Russian forces invaded Ukraine and the war grinding on.

“This is not about propaganda,” said Amherd. “This is about the basis of humanitarian aid provided by Switzerland, based on fostering peace (and) to provide a platform to initiate a dialogue.”

The Swiss president said that most participants would be top country leaders, with about half represented at the head of state or government level, and “a handful” from organizations like the United Nations.

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz are expected to attend the summit at the Bürgenstock resort overlooking Lake Lucerne in the village of Obbürgen.

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris will take part on behalf of the United States. President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, will join Harris as part of the U.S. delegation.

About 160 invitations have been sent out and Amherd said it was not a “disappointment” for the Swiss government that fewer than 100 have so far announced participation in the first phase of the peace process.

Swiss authorities said the final list of participants was expected by Friday, but key developing countries like Turkey, South Africa and Brazil haven’t indicated whether they would attend. India they said, will take part but it isn’t clear at which level.

Brazil and China said they wouldn’t take part unless both sides – including Russia – were at the table, according to Swiss officials. Beijing has been one of the top supporters of Russian President Vladimir Putin since the war started, and has said the criteria for its participation will be “hard to meet.”

Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis also addressed reporters, saying Switzerland has repeatedly acknowledged that there cannot be a peace process without Russia. “The question is not whether Russia will be on board, the question is when.”

He also said Switzerland is in frequent contact with authorities in Moscow about the conference.

Ukraine has helped coordinate the summit, and Zelenskyy is expected to attend. Cassis said Swiss officials had to balance considerations that Ukraine might not have attended if Russia was represented.

Zelenskyy has gone on a diplomatic push to try and lure attendees to the summit. He has also accused China and Russia of trying to undermine it. The Swiss-hosted conference follows on the heels of the G7 summit in neighbouring Italy.

Swiss officials say the conference aims to set a course toward “lasting peace” in Ukraine, to reach a “common understanding” toward getting there, and draw up the “roadmap” on how to get both sides involved in talks. Nuclear security, humanitarian aid and food security are also on the summit’s agenda.

As many as 4,000 military personnel will be deployed to provide security and support air transportation, surveillance and roll out security fencing and steel wire for the event, officials said, adding that an increase in cyberattacks in the run-up to the summit was noted, but didn’t provide details.

In a Swiss valley deep below a mountain ridge where the resort sits, Swiss troops set up a makeshift heliport in a grassy field ringed by barbed wire Monday in preparation for the summit as cowbells clanged nearby.