African Delegation Meets Russian President Putin in Saint Petersburg

A delegation of African leaders, in their pursuit of peace, held a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Saint Petersburg on Saturday. This encounter followed their talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kiev a day earlier. Chinese analysts have commended the collective efforts of the African continent on the global stage, recognizing the complexity of the current conflict situations and the slim possibility of either side accepting the proposals put forth by the African delegation.

The African mission comprised leaders from seven African countries, including South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Senegalese President Macky Sall, Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema, and Comoros President Azali Assoumani, who currently serves as the head of the African Union.

The visiting group also included leaders and representatives from Egypt, the Republic of Congo, and Uganda.

The purpose of the delegation was to seek a path to peace in the 16-month-long conflict between Ukraine and Russia, which has resulted in severe economic repercussions, loss of life, and global instability. A statement released by President Ramaphosa’s office upon his arrival in Saint Petersburg affirmed the delegation’s commitment to finding a solution to the ongoing crisis.

Chinese analysts acknowledged the challenging nature of the conflict and the slim likelihood of the proposals put forward by the African delegation being accepted by either side. However, they applauded the African continent’s unified efforts in addressing the global issues at hand.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) attends a meeting with delegations of African leaders at the Konstantinovsky Palace, outside Saint Petersburg, on June 17, 2023. Putin said he welcomed what he called

Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) attends a meeting with delegations of African leaders at the Konstantinovsky Palace, outside Saint Petersburg, on June 17, 2023. Putin said he welcomed what he called “a balanced stance” on the conflict in Ukraine taken by the members of the delegation. Photo: AFPRamaphosa laid out the 10 points of the African peace initiative that is seeking agreement on a series of “confidence-building measures”

Details of the measures proposed were not disclosed as of press time. 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said after the three-hour meeting that the Africans’ peace plan consisted of 10 elements, but “was not formulated on paper.”

“The peace initiative proposed by African countries is very difficult to implement, difficult to compare positions,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said. But “President Putin has shown interest in considering it.”

“He spoke about our position. Not all provisions can be correlated with the main elements of our position, but this does not mean that we do not need to continue working,” Peskov said.

Putin said on Saturday he welcomed what he called “a balanced stance” on the conflict in Ukraine taken by the members of the delegation, after their talks at the Konstantinovsky Palace. Putin also said Moscow was “open to a constructive dialogue with all those who want peace based on the principles of justice and consideration of the legitimate interests of the parties.” 

Zelensky during his meeting with the delegation on Friday rebuffed efforts to bring Kiev to the negotiating table imminently, and ruled out any peace negotiations with Russia until Moscow’s troops withdraw from Ukraine. 

According to Reuters in its exclusive report on June 15 on a draft framework document, such confidence-building measures could include a Russian troop pull-back, removal of tactical nuclear weapons from Belarus, suspension of the implementation of an International Criminal Court arrest warrant targeting Putin, and sanctions relief. A cessation of hostilities agreement could follow and would need to be accompanied by negotiations between Russia and the West, the draft document seen by Reuters stated.

Ramaphosa’s office had previously described the peace initiative as “the first time that Africa is united behind the resolution of a conflict outside of our continent, and where you have a group of African heads of state and government traveling together in an attempt to find a path to peace to this conflict.”

Putin, during the Saturday meeting, also showed the initiated draft agreement with Ukraine drawn up in March 2022 in Istanbul and signed by the head of the Kiev negotiation team, to the visiting African delegation on Saturday, Russian News Agency TASS reported on Saturday

“It was called treaty of permanent neutrality and security guarantees of Ukraine,” Putin said, adding that the document included 18 articles pertaining to Ukraine’s security. “Well, after we – as promised – withdrew troops from Kiev, Kiev authorities… threw it all away,” the Russian president said.

“My dear friends, not we, but the leadership of Ukraine, announced that it would not conduct any negotiations. Moreover the president of Ukraine signed a decree prohibiting these negotiations,” the Russian head of state said in Saint Petersburg.

“In a world that is used to dominance of powers while overlooking the voices of the less powerful such as African countries, the delegation’s concerted efforts calling for peace is no doubt historic,” Liu Haifang, director of the Center for African Studies at Peking University, told the Global Times on Sunday. 

According to Liu, who is now conducting field surveys in African countries, the impacts of the conflict could be easily seen there, with soaring grain and energy prices alongside mounting inflation as well as dire shortage of fertilizers. 

It is unrealistic to expect that proposals raised by the African delegation would be instantly accepted by the conflicting sides, and that would be an underestimation for the current complex situation, He Wenping, director of the African Studies Section at the Institute of West Asian and African Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Sunday.

But the delegation represented the voice of the whole continent of Africa, which should not be taken lightly, He said, noting that the leader of South Africa that is to host the upcoming BRICS summit in August 2023, could also be making preparations by likely proposing to cancel the International Criminal Court arrest warrant targeting Putin in the peace brokering process so Putin could travel there. 

Lavrov told journalists after the meeting, that [the African states] pointed out the well-known 12 points of the Chinese position, which was presented several months earlier, and they highlighted the parts that are close to them and that stipulate that there must be no double standards, that all principles of the UN Charter are respected and implemented, that no unilateral sanctions take place, that no one must try to ensure own security at the expense of security of others, that security remains indivisible on the global scale,” underscoring that Russia supports such principal approaches.

He Wenping pointed out that although it seems there is still a long way to go, hopes of ending the conflict diplomatically lie in efforts from parties with neutral stance, such as the African delegation members and China. 

The greatest difficulty to initiate any peace talks lies in that Zelensky is insisting on only his 10-point peace plan which is the only acceptable plan for the US-led West serving their goals of weakening Russia. Wavering on that would cost Zelensky his support from the US and Zelensky needs to win his re-election as head of the state in September 2024, Song Zhongping, a military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times.

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