Sunday, June 23, 2024
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Africa: European Leaders Rebuff African Peace Mission

Cape Town — The European leaders whose forces are engaged in the heaviest fighting between two nations on the continent for more than 70 years have rebuffed an attempt by African leaders to launch a peace mission.

The African leaders who travelled to Kyiv in Ukraine on Friday and St Petersburg in Russia on Saturday were President Macky Sall of Senegal, President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, President Azali Assoumani of the Comoros (who is also the current president of the African Union), President Hakainde Hichilema of Zambia and Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouli of Egypt.

In a meeting on Friday with the five leaders, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy rejected any prospect of a ceasefire.

In a comment reflecting Ukraine’s view that a ceasefire would entrench Russia’s hold on land won in an invasion, he was reported by Reuters as saying that “to allow any negotiations with Russia now while the occupier is on our land is to freeze the war, to freeze everything: pain and suffering…

“We need real peace, and therefore, a real withdrawal of Russian troops from our entire independent land.”

For his part, President Vladimir Putin of Russia challenged the basis of the African peace proposals.

After Ramaphosa had implicitly questioned the legitimacy of Russian’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 – saying that the African leaders “recognise the sovereignty of countries in terms of the UN Charter” – Putin reportedly replied that Ukraine and its Western allies had started the conflict long before Russia invaded.

Ramaphosa presented to both European leaders what he called a 10-point peace plan, which he said was not presented in competition with other peace proposals.

“The war cannot go on forever,” he told Putin. “All wars have to be settled and come to an end at some stage and we are here to communicate a very clear message that we would like this war to be ended. We say so because this war is having a negative impact on the African continent and indeed on many other countries around the world.”