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With Ukraine summit, Saudi Arabia boasts mediator role, courts West

One expert believes that the talks will also take Western pressure off the kingdom for its close alignment with Russia.
In this photo provided by Saudi Press Agency, SPA, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky, left, is greeted by Prince Badr Bin Sultan, deputy governor of Mecca, upon his arrival at Jeddah airport, Saudi Arabia, May 19, 2023, to attend the Arab summit. (Saudi Press Agency via AP)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, announced last week that officials from several Western and major developing countries would convene in the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah this weekend to discuss Kyiv's peace plan to end the war in his country.

Among those who have been invited are representatives of 30 countries, include US and European ministers and diplomats along with their counterparts from Brazil, China, India and South Africa. Notably, Russia will not attend the talks, and the Kremlin said Monday that it needed to learn more about the purpose of the meeting and what will be discussed. Speaking on the subject on a call with reporters, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said, “Any attempt to promote a peaceful settlement deserves a positive evaluation.”

But he quickly reasserted that Moscow did not currently see grounds for Ukraine peace talks. "The Kyiv regime does not want and cannot want peace, as long as it is used exclusively as a tool in the war of the collective West with Russia," he said.

The talks, coming three months after Saudi Arabia hosted Zelenskyy at the Arab League summit, are a chance for Riyadh to demonstrate its mediator role not just on regonal issues but on the global stage. The basis for the talks are Zelenskyy's 10-point peace plan granting the restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, security guarantees for Ukraine, the withdrawal of all Russian troops, the release of all prisoners, and accountability for those responsible for the invasion. 

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