An African mission arrived in Kiev, on Friday, before visiting St. Petersburg, Russia, the next day, for peace mediation aimed at resolving the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, although the withdrawal of a number of members of the delegation at the last minute weakens its chances of success.
And the South African presidency announced in a tweet on Twitter that the country’s South African President Cyril Ramaphosa arrived, Friday morning, in Ukraine as part of a delegation that includes African leaders. She said Ramaphosa “arrived at Nemisheve railway station”.
Simultaneously, the official Russian Information Agency quoted the Kremlin today, Friday, as saying that President Vladimir Putin is still open to any contacts to discuss a solution to the Ukrainian conflict.
The heads of 4 African countries, a prime minister and a special envoy are supposed to start talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, and then with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.
Soldiers of the Ukrainian army – Ukraine – France Press
The mediation comes at the height of a Ukrainian counterattack, with fighting escalating on the ground.
“In a period of escalating conflict, the search for a peaceful solution must be accelerated,” South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a statement Thursday.
“We want to start discussions … to see if it is possible through joint efforts to get closer to peace in Ukraine,” Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said in a statement.
But the mission, the latest in a series of so far fruitless diplomatic efforts, did not begin on the best of terms.
A Congolese diplomatic source said, on Wednesday, that “the conditions for peaceful and constructive discussions are no longer available” with the escalation of violence.
Congolese National Television announced Thursday evening that President Denis Sassou Nguesso, whose participation was uncertain, would ultimately not participate in the mission. He will be represented by the Chief of the Presidential Office, General Florent Ntseba, who apparently arrived in Poland on Thursday evening.
Two other heads of state withdrew, Ugandan Yoweri Museveni, who was confirmed to be infected with the Corona virus, and a former prime minister chose a special envoy, as well as Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, who will be represented by the prime minister, withdrew.
The Congolese source said that this “will likely weaken the African initiative.”
Doubts about the feasibility of African mediation
At this stage, only Ramaphosa, Senegalese President Macky Sall and Zambian President Hakkende Hichilema, as well as Comoros President Ghazali Osman, who has chaired the African Union since February, have been confirmed.
The four African leaders will take a train from Poland to head to Kiev on Friday.
Pretoria announced the launch of an African peace mission last month. South Africa, which is facing criticism for its proximity to Moscow, refuses to condemn Russia since the start of the war in Ukraine, stressing that it adopts a neutral position and wants dialogue.
African countries condemned the Russian attack on Ukraine in February 2022, but with less unanimity than that recorded by the major Western powers.
Experts believe that the chances of success of the mission are slim, after Ukraine announced that it was not ready for any regional settlement.
Ukrainian political analyst Anatoly Oktsio said African leaders “will not be able to offer us anything in terms of resolving the conflict”. He added, “They cannot play the role of mediators,” considering that “their political weight is small and they have no influence.”
Africa has been hit hard by rising food prices and the impact of the war on global trade.
Ukrainian grain exports – within the framework of an agreement Moscow has threatened to withdraw from – as well as fertilizers and prisoner exchanges are supposed to be among the issues to be discussed, according to analysts.
Alex Vines of the British think tank “Chatham House” considered that this mediation “has a chance” to obtain some concessions from the Kremlin before the Russian-African economic summit in St. Petersburg next month.
For his part, Jeremy Sikings, a professor of politics at the University of Cape Town, said that the situation is more like a “play”, explaining that Ramaphosa “really needs something to restore his credibility and is trying to survive this blow that is not guaranteed at all.”
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