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Ukraine War: Ramaphosa on ‘impactful’ African Peace Mission

Reflecting on the mission by the African delegation pushing for an end to war between Ukraine and Russia, Cyril Ramaphosa called it impactful on Sunday (June 18).

The mission included the presidents of South Africa, Senegal, Comoros and Zambia, as well as top officials from Uganda, Egypt and Congo-Brazzaville.

“Our mission was impactful. Its real success obviously will be measured on the ultimate objective of stopping the war.”

The African delegation met with president Volodymir Zelinsky of Ukraine on June 16 then with Vladimir Poutin of the Russian Federation on June 17.

Ramaphosa listed 10 principles, which included de-escalation, the recognition of countries’ sovereignty, security guarantees for all countries, unimpeded grain exports through the Black Sea and sending prisoners of war and children back to their countries of origin.

“The agreement that they are willing to engage with African leaders on this is a huge achievement for us, because now Africa is in the frame, Africa will be participating, and we’re participating positively, without trying to diminish the other efforts that are underway,” the 70-year-old leader said.

China for example presented its own peace proposal at the end of February.

“Any initiative is very difficult to implement,” Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying by the state-run agency RIA Novosti.

“But President Putin has shown interest in considering it,” Peskov said after the leaders held a meeting behind closed doors.

Putin had praised the delegation’s “balanced” approach and said he was “open to a constructive dialogue with all those who want to implement peace based on the principles of justice and respect for the parties’ legitimate interests”.

Moscow has in the past repeated that any negotiations would need to take into account “new territorial realities”.

Zelensky, speaking on Friday after Ramaphosa called for de-escalation following their talks in Kyiv, repeated his position that Ukraine must recover territories lost to Russia to achieve peace.

When an air raid siren sounded in Kyiv shortly after the delegation’s arrival earlier on Friday, forcing it to take shelter, Zelensky said it showed that Putin either did not control his army or was “irrational”.

Choosing a side

The delegation brought the voice of a continent which has been repeatedly told to chose a side.

African countries have been divided over their response to the fighting. While some have voted a UN resoluton condemning the ‘invasion of Ukraine”, others have remained neutral, or voted with Moscow against such a resolution.

Some analysts told AFP that efforts to secure peace appeared increasingly perilous, with both Kyiv and Moscow convinced they can win on the battlefield.

Ukraine launched a counteroffensive earlier this month.

Russian officials — including Putin — have insisted the counteroffensive is failing despite Kyiv saying it has claimed some gains.

Kyiv said Friday (June 16) evening that its units were having “tactical success” in nearly all areas where they were fighting in the south.

The Russian army, meanwhile, said it had repelled all assaults from Ukraine. 

Securing the future viability of a deal allowing grain from Ukraine to reach the global market would be one potential goal of the delegation.

“This war is having a negative impact on the African continent and indeed on many other countries around the world,” Ramaphosa said ahead of formal talks with the Russian president.

Putin said “the crisis on the global food market is by no means a consequence” of the Ukraine conflict.

Russia accuses the West of blocking its exports of fertilisers and threatens to pull out of a deal — due to expire on July 17 — that has allowed Ukrainian grain exports to resume through the Black Sea.

A UNCA report showed that between 2018 and 2020, Africa imported 32% of its wheat from the Russian Federation and another 12% from Ukraine.

“We do not believe that shipments of Ukrainian grain supplies can solve the problems of poverty and hunger,” Putin said during the meeting.

Zelensky had asked the African leaders to “please, let them release our political prisoners. I think this will be an important result of your mission.”

Referring to prisoners of war, Putin said on Saturday (June 17): “We are ready to continue this process.”

Areas devastated by flooding

In Ukraine, Russian and Ukrainian officials in the area devastated by flooding from the destruction of a Russian-held dam announced revised death tolls Saturday.

The toll in Russian-held areas had risen to 29, officials there said.

Kyiv said the number killed in its territory had risen to 16, with 31 still missing, and warned that the threat of air strikes “remains high across Ukraine”.

“The enemy continues to focus its main efforts on the Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka, and Maryinka axes and heavy battles continue,” the Ukrainian defence ministry said in a statement.

In Washington, US President Joe Biden said that the United States would not make special arrangements for Ukraine to join the NATO military alliance.

“They’ve got to meet the same standards,” he told reporters. “So we’re not going to make it easy.”

Next week, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will call on investors and businesses at a two-day summit in London to match Ukraine’s “bravery on the battlefield” with support to get the country back on its feet.

Source : Africanews