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Zelenskyy peace summit switzerland
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, center, is accompanied after his arrival by Felix Baumann, Ambassador of Switzerland to Ukraine, left, Iryna Wenediktowa, Ukrainian Ambassador to Switzerland, 2nd right, and Manuel Irman, Deputy Head of Swiss Protocol, right, at Zurich airport in Zurich Kloten, Switzerland on Friday June 14, 2024. Zelenskyy will attend the Summit on Peace in Ukraine conference held on June 15 and 16 at the Buergenstock Resort in central Switzerland. (KEYSTONE/EDA/POOL/Michael Buholzer)

What does Ukraine hope to achieve with the Global Peace Summit?

On 15-16 June, an inaugural Global Peace Summit dedicated to Ukraine’s Peace Formula will occur in Switzerland. Russia is not invited. What are its goals and can it really achieve peace? We spoke to an insider to find out.
What does Ukraine hope to achieve with the Global Peace Summit?
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Russia has not been invited to the Global Peace Summit which takes place on 15-16 June 2024 and has deemed Ukraine’s plan “impossible.”

However, according to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s spokesperson, Serhiy Nykyforov, 107 countries and international organizations had pledged to attend the Summit, although the number of delegations dropped to 92 on the eve of the event.

On 31 May 2024, China said it wouldn’t attend the Summit, siding with Russia and discouraging others from participating.

Discussions at the summit in June will cover three of the ten points, namely nuclear and energy security, food security, freedom of navigation, prisoner exchanges and the repatriation of civilians and children unlawfully taken from Ukraine. These are the first three points of the Peace Formula, while the others are expected to be covered by future summits.

To find out the real expectations from the summit, we talked with Hennadiy Maksak, Executive Director of the Ukrainian Prism Foreign Policy Council, who has been working extensively on the summit topic. 

Preconditions of the Summit

On 15 November 2022, during the G20 Bali Summit, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy outlined the detailed 10-point Peace Formula. The points were as follows:

  1. Ensuring nuclear safety, especially that of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.
  2. Ensuring food security for Asian and African countries.
  3. Ensuring energy security and restoration of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure.
  4. Release of all prisoners and the return of Ukrainian children deported to Russia.
  5. Restoration of the Russia–Ukraine border to that prior to the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea and invasion of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, in line with Article 2 of the Charter of the United Nations.
  6. Full withdrawal of Russian military forces from Ukraine and cessation of hostilities.
  7. Justice. Prosecution of war crimes in the Russian invasion of Ukraine, including the creation of a special tribunal for Russian war crimes.
  8. Assessment of ecological damage, including that caused by the destruction of the Kakhovka Dam, and immediate protection of the environment. Recovery and reconstruction.
  9. Guarantees against future Russian aggression that would include renewed post-war security architecture in the Euro-Atlantic space, including Ukraine.
  10. A multilateral peace conference with a legally binding international treaty.

Following the presentation of the Peace Formula, Ukraine initiated practical work with groups of advisors from all interested countries, working on each of the ten points.

Work on the points of the Peace Formula at the level of advisers began in June 2023 with an inaugural meeting in Copenhagen, which was attended by fifteen countries. The meeting in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, at the beginning of August, saw at least twice as many attendees, including a representative from China, a country that officially maintains a “neutral” position on the war and had previously proposed its own Peace plan, favorable to Russia.

At the end of October 2023, during a meeting in Malta, diplomats from more than 60 countries, including those from Latin America, Asia, and Africa, discussed the first five points of Ukraine’s Peace Formula. On 14 January 2024, representatives from 81 countries convened in Davos, Switzerland, to deliberate on the next five points.

4th Peace Summit on Ukraine held in Davos, Switzerland
The meeting of the national security advisors on Ukraine’s Peace Formula in Davos, Switzerland, 14 January 2024. Photo: Andriy Yermak via Twitter

The thematic directions outlined in the Peace Formula cover most areas where Russia’s aggressive war against Ukraine has resulted in negative and catastrophic consequences.

The Points also align with the calls and proposals set forth in United Nations General Assembly resolutions, starting with Resolution ES-11/1 “Aggression against Ukraine,” adopted on 2 March 2022, and continuing up to the February 2023 Resolution ES-11/6 “Principles of the Charter of the United Nations for achieving comprehensive, just, and lasting peace in Ukraine.” The latter provided a more structured framework for the Peace Formula linked to the norms of the UN Charter.

The number of countries supporting the Peace Formula is crucial now, but it is only the first step

Hennadiy Maksak, Executive Director of the Ukrainian Prism Foreign Policy Council

The Peace Formula is an initiative launched by Ukraine in 2022. During this time, it has grown to include certain procedures. By the beginning of 2024, when a meeting at the level of security advisers had already taken place, the preliminary expert work on each of the ten points of Zelensky’s Peace Formula was completed.

Working groups were created for each point, led by the relevant Ukrainian ministry and including embassy representatives from various countries and international experts. When the decisions were developed, there was a need to move to the political level. This is how the idea of this Summit emerged.

Our main indicator is the number of states coming to this forum. To ensure their participation, we need to find a common denominator. We could gather 30 countries that say “the aggressor must face trial,” “must pay,” and so on, but this is more of a dead end because 30 out of the 193 UN member states is not nearly enough. Therefore, I think the position currently held and defended by the Ukrainian diplomatic team is to gather the maximum number of states that can legitimize our Peace Formula.

It is important for us to gather many more states than those promoting alternative Peace projects, such as the one proposed by China. There will be others who will somewhat support Russian interests, who are not interested in changing anything but maintaining the status quo. They don’t care about Ukraine’s territory; they just want to freeze the conflict, which will be in Russia’s interests, of course.

The second issue is that we would not have been able to gather the number of states that now are on the list on our own. Up to 100 states, with 70 promising to be present at a high level, from foreign ministers and above to heads of state. That’s why it’s very important that Switzerland helped us, but Switzerland also has its own vision.

From the beginning, Switzerland’s view was that Russia should be present. Our understanding is that Russia should not be there because if we want to create some new tools that would help us solve these conflicts in the future, then we probably need to understand that these tools should be maximally directed against the future aggressor.

Of course, at this stage, the aggressor will not give us any understanding of how to move forward better. Therefore, the states that respect territorial integrity and sovereignty are gathering.

Five-star Bürgenstock hotel above Lake Lucerne in central Switzerland
Bürgenstock hotel above Lake Lucerne in central Switzerland, where Global Peace Summit will happen June 15 and 16, Source: Bürgenstock Resort Lake Lucerne website

There will be a second summit. The philosophy of the Peace Formula assumes that we will invite Russia to the second summit if it is willing and discuss the point and the plans that we have already decided together among the states that respect territorial integrity and sovereignty.

That is, what we decide at the first summit and then the additional expert tracks that will be developed between the first and second summits.

This draft peace plan, which will be the common denominator, will not only be Ukraine’s Peace Formula but a joint initiative from the states that have signed it, and this plan will be passed on to Russia.

Of course, the states that join also want to see their versions of the communiqué. And we are coming to a common denominator. And here we are talking about the fact that the safety of navigation plus food security affects the whole world, including non-Western countries. Freedom of navigation is also very important for normal trade; if it is violated somewhere, it later affects supply chains and generally disrupts the production system.

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Nuclear and radiation safety. We understand that if there is a possibility of nuclear terrorism and it is forgiven or tolerated by the world, then there is a high probability that in other parts of the world, nuclear power plants can be seized for terrorist purposes. This is also something that needs to be fought against.

The third point is regarding the customs of war. The conventions that exist even for prisoners of war are not being followed. Russia is torturing, killing prisoners of war, and kidnapping our children. Therefore, states must come to a common understanding of how to combat violations of existing conventions.

This is the first step that really needs to work, and it is to be continued. This is not the whole story, although it is very important to make a start for such a large number of states that will come to this summit.

Our diplomats are doing everything possible to create the most favorable conditions for Ukraine. It is clear that we are not working in ideal conditions, and there is always opposition. We see that it is intensifying, and Russia, China, and other states are trying to thwart it all. I believe that we are doing the maximum that we can at the moment.

How the summit can help to achieve the withdrawal of Russian troops

From what has already been announced, Ukraine’s Minister of Defense Rustem Umerov suggested that there was a possibility of creating an international mechanism that would observe how this troop withdrawal is done by Russia. That is, for each point of the Peace Formula, there are its own developments, which are not entirely public.

It is important for us to have a plan for when Russia will be ready and will be in a state to conduct negotiations on fair terms. What Russians are currently stating, such as “Let’s stop at the current line, and these occupied territories will be ours,” — is about nothing. We understand that in this case, all our points about security, the restoration of integrity, and sovereignty will be under great question. Of course, Russia needs to be really ready, and this is the question of our defense capability so that we can have success in liberating Ukrainian territory.

However, it is important to have the plan ready in advance. The draft peace plan, which should include all 10 points, must be worked out so that we don’t have unresolved issues where Russia can take advantage. Our task is to have concrete answers so that when Russia sits down at the negotiating table, we have a clear position that is supported by the world.

The role of Brazil

Even if there are positions of some large states that do not want to support this because of their ties with Russia, there are instead 100 states that say yes, let’s move in this direction.

Again, we need many summit members because we rely on the number of UN members who voted for the resolution in February 2023. This resolution actually legitimized the Peace Formula; each point is spelled out there, and it corresponds to the principles of the UN General Assembly. And this resolution was supported by 141 out of 193 states, more than 70%.

Brazil will, of course, play its own game now. We see that there is a joint statement by China and Brazil, although this is more of China’s influence. And they are indeed trying to play their own game. They are trying to persuade other states not to come to Switzerland. And we really need to ensure the maximum number of members who have arrived.

Practical consequences of the summit

The three points that will be submitted for discussion will be the draft of the peace plan, which needs to be worked on. Something will go into the communiqué. Something will not be in the communiqué but will serve as a working development.

During the summit, there will be three working sections: radiation and nuclear safety, food security, freedom of navigation, and the exchange of POWs, all for all, plus the return of deported children and civilians. These points will be worked out, and some mechanisms will be proposed.

Let’s still understand that gathering 100 states is very difficult. It is extremely difficult, and the efforts that have been made really deserve respect. Then, there will be thematic working conferences or mini-summits on each of the points.

The current approach in Ukraine is that if a state is ready to join at least one point, it is better to use this support than to demand support for all ten points. One specific point is also related to stopping the war and ensuring justice for Ukrainian society. Therefore, the work will be thematic.

Then, communication follows. Some states that will take on this role, such as Türkiye, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, can communicate each individual point to Russia separately; they can communicate in a format similar to the grain initiative, when we do not directly communicate with Russia, but they convey these conditions to it, and it reacts to them.

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Chinese position

What China advocates is a ceasefire; they proceed from the idea that they are supposedly helping both Ukraine and Russia to reduce suffering and reduce the number of casualties. At the same time, unfortunately, they proceed more from the Russian position. They say Russia is waging a defensive war, but with an instrument of aggression, because it sees that its security interests are allegedly not taken into account by global players, so it has to do this preventively.

At the same time, if the conflict freezes and there is a ceasefire, then no one talks about respect for territorial integrity. This is where China and Ukraine diverge.

China has now actively engaged in efforts to disrupt our peace forum and to propose its own 12 points. China is now trying to make a niche for itself to strengthen its initiative. But now, it is really a game to reduce the number of participants and serve Russia’s interests.

China communicates that Putin came to them, he spoke in the Chinese media and said that he has a positive attitude towards the Chinese peace initiative, so they are ready to make certain commitments and pacify us. We explain to them that we don’t need to reinvent the wheel; we have points that are already supported by the General Assembly.

Prospects

I don’t think that the second summit could be held by the end of the year with the participation of Russia already because we see that Russia, again, defends its point of view that it has some kind of military operation and demilitarizing. If we do not really put pressure on it, we will not sit it at the table.

We are fighting, but we are preparing for peace because, in the end, there must be negotiations. Our task is to ensure that the negotiations are in the direction of our triad: a just, comprehensive, and lasting peace.

Otherwise, like after 2014, we will have a repetition of the war, but it will already be on a larger scale. Russia will recover, gain strength, give birth to new soldiers, and build new equipment. And they will go to war again. Perhaps not only against Ukraine but also against NATO countries.

But we must have a peace plan ready in advance so there are no surprises when we sit down at the table. This moment is not now, and we are working for the long haul, but I think we are working quite systematically. Planned work on a global scale is underway.

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