By Carien du Plessis
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Wednesday that talks about resolving the conflict with Russia could not start with a mere cessation of hostilities.
“If anyone thinks they should freeze the conflict and then see how to solve it, they don’t understand it,” he said in an online briefing aimed at African journalists, following a tour of African countries.
More than 100 rounds of consultation and attempts at a ceasefire since Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 only led to the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, he said.
A delegation of African heads of state is expected to visit Ukraine and Russia in the next few days hoping to persuade them to cease hostilities, a spokesperson for South African President Cyril Ramaphosa told Reuters last month.
He said on Wednesday no date had been set for the mission as yet.
Such a proposal means that Russian troops would remain on Ukrainian soil even as peace talks start. Ukraine previously said Russian forces should withdraw before such negotiations could start, while Moscow wants Kyiv to recognise Russian sovereignty over Crimea as precondition for negotiations.
President Macky Sall of Senegal, last year’s African Union chairman, whose country was not present at the latest U.N. vote condemning Russia in February this year, leads the initiative. The current African Union chairman, Comoros Islands President Othman Ghazali, was recently added to the delegation.
It also includes presidents Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt and Hakainde Hichilema of Zambia – which both voted for the resolution – and Congo Republic’s Denis Sassou Nguesso, and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, which both abstained, as did South Africa.
Kuleba has been on a charm offensive in Africa to win support in a continent where 30 of the 54 African U.N. member states voted in favour of the U.N. resolution condemning Russia’s invasion.
“What we see in our relations with the continent right now is fair to call a Ukrainian-African Renaissance,” Kuleba said.
He had no details on what the African peace mission entailed, but he welcomed it.
“We are looking forward to hosting these presidents in Kyiv,” he said.
(Reporting by Carien du Plessis; Editing by Alistair Bell)
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