Saudi Arabia to host Ukraine peace summit in August

Meeting confirmed by presidential office in Kyiv

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy arrives to attend the Arab League Summit in Jeddah. Photo: Saudi Press Agency
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Saudi Arabia will host peace talks on Ukraine this weekend to complement discussions at the summit in Copenhagen last month.

The talks on Saturday and Sunday were confirmed by a Saudi Foreign Ministry source. They follow the Ukraine Peace Summit held in the Danish capital.

The head of Ukraine’s presidential office, Andriy Yermak, confirmed late on Sunday that Saudi Arabia would host the discussions, during which a peace plan is expected to be discussed.

Musaed Al Aiban, a member of the cabinet of ministers and the kingdom’s National Security Adviser, has sent invitations to at least 30 countries expected to participate in the summit, Saudi pan-Arab Asharq Al Awsat newspaper reported.

A Saudi Foreign Ministry source also confirmed to The National that preparations have started for the two-day summit and that it would likely be in the coastal city of Jeddah, the same city which hosted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as a surprise guest at the Arab League summit in May.

“The Ukrainian Peace Formula contains 10 fundamental points, the implementation of which will not only ensure peace for Ukraine but also create mechanisms to counter future conflicts in the world,” Mr Yermak said, confirming the talks would be held in Saudi Arabia, without naming Jeddah as the location.

“We are deeply convinced that the Ukrainian peace plan should be taken as a basis because the war is taking place on our land,” he added.

In the US, the White House National Security Council welcomed “the initiative of Saudi Arabia to host a meeting this upcoming weekend to discuss principles for peace in Ukraine and we appreciate Saudi Arabia’s engagement in this process”.

“We expect attendees will discuss the principles for peace and how we can achieve a just and durable peace in Ukraine,” a statement said.

Bernard Haykel, a professor of Near Eastern studies at Princeton University, said the talks were a way for Saudi Arabia to show its “diplomatic muscle”.

“They can talk to everyone, and I think that's part of the point, and they also have financial muscle,” Mr Haykel told The National.

The war in Ukraine has been “problematic” for Saudi Arabia, said Mr Haykel, with the kingdom reluctant to choose sides in the conflict. Helping to resolve the war would allow it to maintain relations with both the US and Russia.

“They don't consider this their war and they want to be able to remain on the good side of both the Russians and the Americans,” Mr Haykel added.

While Saudi Arabia has yet to publicly confirm the summit, Saudi-owned government channels have been running reports of the kingdom’s mediation efforts between Ukraine and Russia since Sunday.

The UK, South Africa, Poland and the EU are among countries that have confirmed attendance, according to sources who spoke to the Wall Street Journal, while US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan is also expected to attend the summit in Jeddah.

Saudi Arabia and other countries played a pivotal role in arranging prisoner exchanges with Ukraine. In September, Russia released 10 prisoners of war captured in Ukraine after diplomatic mediation efforts by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Updated: July 31, 2023, 8:00 PM