Ramaphosa joins peace plan for Russia and Ukraine

 ·16 May 2023

African nations proposed a new initiative to help bring an end to Russia’s war against Ukraine, President Cyril Ramaphosa said, adding to a string of foreign offers of mediation and peace talks.

A delegation of African heads of state plan to travel to Moscow and Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, to present the plan as soon as possible, Ramaphosa said at a joint briefing with visiting Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in Cape Town on Tuesday. Zambia, Senegal, the Republic of Congo, Uganda, Egypt and South Africa will all be part of the mediation effort.

“This peace mission will contribute to the various other missions to bring a close to this conflict,” Ramaphosa said.

The South African leader first announced in March 2022 that his government had been asked to “play a mediation role” in the war. He didn’t identify who made the request, saying only that the approach was based on its relations with Russia and as a member of BRICS, the five-nation bloc that also includes Brazil, India and China.

South Africa’s stated neutrality in the war has been called into question, with the US last week alleging that it supplied weapons to Russia, and its army chief holding talks in Moscow on Monday with his Russian counterpart about broadening cooperation. Pretoria has denied any knowledge of the armament shipments, and said it has appointed an independent judge to investigate.

Ramaphosa held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on May 12 and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskiy the following day. Both of them had agreed to receive the African heads of state, he said.

The war “has an impact on the lives of many Africans with regard to food security, the prices of fertilizers have gone up, the prices of cereals have gone up and the prices of fuel,” Ramaphosa said. “Principal to our discussions are efforts to a peaceful resolution to the devastating conflict in Ukraine, its cost on human lives and the impact on the African continent.”

The announcement of the African initiative came on the same day that a top Chinese diplomat was scheduled to visit Ukraine, hours after its air defenses successfully intercepted what officials described as an exceptionally intense Russian missile attack on Kyiv. That visit comes a month after Chinese President Xi Jinping announced he would send an envoy to Kyiv, after coming under pressure from Western powers for failing to condemn Putin’s war.

French President Emmanuel Macron is meanwhile looking to approach China with a plan that he believes could potentially lead to talks between Russia and Ukraine as soon as this summer. He has tasked his foreign policy adviser, Emmanuel Bonne, to work with China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, to establish a framework that could be used as a basis for future negotiations, according to people familiar with the plans.

It’s not clear if Macron has support for his plan from Kyiv and its allies, many of whom have dismissed cease-fire proposals that would allow Russia to keep territorial gains. Many nations are also skeptical that China can serve as a neutral intermediary given its “no-limits friendship” with Russia. The countries have repeatedly pledged to strengthen ties, including a call on Monday to boost cooperation between their militaries.

Read: South Africa won’t be forced to pick a side: Ramaphosa

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