Switzerland said yesterday that it would organise a high-level peace conference for Ukraine in mid-June, but without Russia, which promptly slammed the event as a US-orchestrated plot.
Ukraine and up to 100 countries would attend the conference at the luxury Burgenstock resort near the central city of Luzern on June 15-16, which Swiss President Viola Amherd said she would host.
“This is a first step in a process towards a lasting peace,” she told reporters in Bern.
Amherd acknowledged that “we will not sign a peace plan at this conference” but “we hope to start the process”.
Russia, which invaded Ukraine in February 2022 and whose forces are putting Ukraine under new pressure, condemned the event as being part of a scheme by US President Joe Biden’s Democratic Party ahead of this year’s presidential election.
“American Democrats, who need photos and videos of events that supposedly indicate their project ‘Ukraine’ is still afloat, are behind this,” the state-run Tass news agency quoted foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova as saying.
Switzerland hopes to include Russia in later talks.
The Swiss government agreed during a January visit by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to organise a peace conference this year.
It said in a statement yesterday that it now determined that “there is currently sufficient international support for a high-level conference to launch the peace process”.
Traditionally neutral Switzerland has from the start insisted that Moscow must be brought into the talks, and has been battling to attract China and other emerging powers.
Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis met his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in New York in January to try to woo him to the conference.
However, Russia, angered by the Swiss decision to go along with sanctions imposed by the European Union, has said the country can no longer be considered neutral.
“A peace process cannot happen without Russia, even though it will not be there during the first meeting,” Cassis said. “Peace cannot be achieved without all the parties to the conflict onboard.”
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