Ukraine urged to begin peace talks with Russia

South Africa has advised Kiev to invite Moscow to its “peace formula” meetings in order to move closer to a more formal negotiating process

Ukraine urged to begin peace talks with Russia

South Africa’s foreign minister says Moscow’s involvement would facilitate ‘steps toward’ a formal negotiating process

A negotiated outcome in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine requires “the two parties around the table,” South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor said in an interview with national broadcaster SABC on Tuesday.

South Africa had participated in four Ukrainian “peace workshop meetings” with other countries, she said, but Russian representatives have never received an invitation.

During the last meeting, which took place in early December, Pretoria “made the proposal to Ukraine that the time may have come for Russia to be invited,” Pandor said. If Moscow was involved, she added, it would facilitate “steps towards a more formal process of discussing the negotiation process and the proposed settlement.”

The minister added that South Africa was pleased that “many more countries are now involved in these deliberations,” and that there is a “growing view” among them that both Russia and Ukraine need to be in the same room so “real discussions can occur.” So far, Ukraine has not responded to the proposal, Pandor said.

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky said on Tuesday that the issue of negotiations is “irrelevant” because Moscow is not ready to accept his “peace formula,” which includes the withdrawal of troops from Russian regions, the return of 1991 borders, and the payment of reparations. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has called Zelensky’s initiative “a set of ultimatums detached from reality.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday that Kiev’s “peace formula” with Russia, which is being sought without Moscow’s participation, is “an absurd process that has no potential for results.”

Moscow has repeatedly said it is open to peace talks with Kiev. However, last year Zelensky signed a decree banning talks with Russia. In October, President Vladimir Putin said that, if Kiev wants real negotiations, the first thing it should do is lift that ban.