For weeks Russia’s war against Ukraine was virtually silent on diplomatic channels, and an early negotiated solution seemed impossible, even for a ceasefire. Direct talks between Russia and Ukraine have been suspended for a month.
After it became known on Thursday that the highest military officials in the US and Russia had called each other for the first time since the Russian invasion began on February 24, the government in Rome announced on Saturday that it had submitted a multi-stage peace plan to the UN. And the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy – who was extremely reluctant to negotiate recently – emphasized in an interview that the war could ultimately only be ended through diplomacy.
According to a dpa report, Italy’s Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio told the newspaper “La Stampa” that only individual states are currently trying to mediate. “A diplomatic counter-offensive is now needed.” The politician from the populist Five Star Movement said that the plan was to get all relevant international organizations to cooperate. A first goal is to achieve local pauses in fighting, followed by a ceasefire, work on neutrality and finally a peace agreement.
The plan was developed by diplomats and the Italian government and presented to the negotiators of the seven most important industrialized nations (G7), Di Maio said. He also spoke to UN Secretary-General António Guterres. The UN, EU and OSCE should involve other countries like Turkey and India as the main working group.
Di Maio was pessimistic about the current situation in negotiations with Russia: “I don’t want to come across as a doomsayer, but I don’t see any negotiations at any table,” he said. “Individual actions will not persuade Vladimir Putin to negotiate.” There were initially no reactions from Russia and Ukraine to the Italian announcement.
However, Zelenskyy said on Saturday, according to the Ukrainian television channel ICTV of the news agency AFP, that the war will be “bloody, there will be fierce fighting, but it will only end finally through diplomacy”. The Ukrainian President further said: “There are things that we can only achieve at the negotiating table.” The results of the negotiations must be “just” for Ukraine.
The President reiterated his call for security guarantees. He suggested there should be a document on security guarantees for Ukraine, signed “by the friends and partners of Ukraine, without Russia”. At the same time, there should be “a bilateral discussion with Russia”.
On the other hand, Zelenskyy continues to insist on the delivery of heavy weapons, as he has done since the beginning of the war. In an interview recorded before the Russian takeover of the Mariupol steel works, he held the West partly responsible for developments there. He has repeatedly called on Western leaders to supply his country with “appropriate weapons” “so that we can reach Mariupol to liberate these people,” the Ukrainian president said.
According to Russian news agencies, the last meeting of the chief negotiators of Moscow and Kiev took place on April 22. Since the start of the Russian attack in Ukraine, both sides had previously met regularly for negotiations or discussed a settlement of the conflict via video conference. Russia blames Ukraine for the deadlock.
“The talks are indeed not progressing, and we find that the Ukrainian negotiators lack the will to continue this process,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in Moscow on Wednesday. Earlier, Ukraine said the talks had been suspended because of Russia’s stance. Moscow lacks understanding of “what is happening in the world right now and its extremely negative role,” said Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podoliak.