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Diplomacy Watch: West push for Ukraine War consensus flagging

According to Wall Street Journal report, Kyiv’s efforts are making only 'incremental progress.'

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Over the last few months, Ukraine and its allies have pursued multiple efforts to convince unaligned nations to endorse their concept of a peace deal. President Volodymyr Zelensky and other high-ranking Ukrainian officials have made trips to Africa and the Middle East in hopes of winning over countries in the Global South.

In June, senior officials from Kyiv, a number of European countries, and a number of important neutral countries, including Brazil, India, Turkey and South Africa, met in Denmark to discuss Zelensky’s ten-point peace plan.

Last month, Saudi Arabia hosted a follow-up summit, which was notable mostly for the presence of Chinese officials, who were absent from the first meeting. The Wall Street Journal reported in advance of the Jeddah confab that “Ukraine and Western officials hope the efforts could culminate in a peace summit later this year where global leaders would sign up to shared principles for resolving the war.”

Now, with the G-20 meeting having just concluded and the annual UN General Assembly meetings taking place next week, the Journal took stock of what these efforts have accomplished. The conclusion? “Western efforts to craft an international consensus on peace terms that would benefit Ukraine have made only incremental progress.”

“U.S. and European diplomats argue that they have chalked up some significant successes in global diplomacy on Ukraine,” writes Laurence Norman. “But in recent months, diplomats and observers say, the international willingness to call out Russia publicly has diminished. A number of emerging countries have come out against calls from Ukraine and its backers to seek reparations from Russia over war damage and create an international tribunal targeting Russia’s leadership.”

Signs of this tension were clear at last week’s G-20 summit in New Delhi. The signatories of the leaders’ declaration could not agree that the conflict was a war “against” Ukraine and instead referred to it as a war “in Ukraine.” The statement spoke out against territorial conquests in general terms but did not directly condemn Moscow for its aggression.

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called the statement “a step in the right direction,” while the Ukrainian foreign ministry said it was “nothing to be proud of.”

As the Journal report notes, Moscow has still been largely marginalized on the international stage. But because much of the Global South has suffered the economic consequences of the war, they are more motivated to seek a conclusion to hostilities.

“At next week’s gathering of world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly, developing countries appear eager to shift the global focus onto their priorities: global inequality and debt relief,” writes Norman.

As for Ukraine’s government, it may look to take advantage of the presence of world leaders in New York to build on this summer’s discussions to pursue a more unified international position in any eventual negotiations.

“The U.S. and its allies have accepted that they are not going to win over some of the big non-Western powers completely,” Richard Gowan, the U.N. director at the International Crisis Group, told the Journal. “But the international view of how the war should end…may help frame whatever solution is eventually available.”

In other diplomatic news related to the war in Ukraine:

— NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg made remarks detailing discussions between Russia and NATO from before the war:

“President Putin declared in the autumn of 2021, and actually sent a draft treaty that they wanted NATO to sign, to promise no more NATO enlargement. That was what he sent us. And [it] was a pre-condition for [him to] not invade Ukraine. Of course we didn't sign that. The opposite happened.” Stoltenberg said. “He wanted us to remove our military infrastructure in all Allies that have joined NATO since 1997, meaning half of NATO, all the Central and Eastern Europe, we should remove NATO from that part of our Alliance, introducing some kind of B, or second class membership. We rejected that. So he went to war to prevent NATO, more NATO, close to his borders. He has got the exact opposite.”

—Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the BBC that he believes that Ukraine has approximately 30 more days before weather conditions begin to hamper Ukraine’s counteroffensive. An anonymous French diplomat agreed with this assessment, telling Politico that the counteroffensive would likely have to conclude by late October or early November.

—North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made a rare trip abroad, visiting Vladimir Putin in Russia. Politico’s NatSec daily newsletter reports that “It’s widely believed that the autocrats met to hash out a deal where Moscow gets conventional weapons for the war while Pyongyang gets food aid as well as advanced technology for satellites and ballistic missiles.”

— The Pope’s peace envoy, Matteo Zuppi, is visiting China this week, following trips to Washington, Kyiv, and Moscow earlier this summer. "On the issue of Ukraine, China has always been committed to promoting peace talks," said Mao Ning, a spokesperson for the Chinese foreign minister. "We are ready to work with all parties and continue to play a constructive role in promoting de-escalation and cooling of the situation." The details of Zuppi’s trip are not clear, although the Italian newspaper La Repubblica reported that he was likely to meet with Premier Li Qiang. Reuters notes that Beijing hosting a papal envoy is significant given Beijing's cool ties with the Holy See.

U.S. State Department news:

State Department spokesman Matthew Miller responded to a question about Stoltenberg’s remarks during a press briefing in Wednesday’s press briefing. “We always made clear in the run-up to that war that we were willing to engage in diplomacy with Russia. The Ukrainians made clear that they were willing to engage in diplomacy with Russia about legitimate regional security concerns. But we were not going to compromise one of NATO’s founding principles,” Miller said. “Ukraine did not want to seem to want to compromise their own right to determine their future as a country.”

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