Zelenskyy, at Shangri-La meeting, urges countries to join peace summit

SINGAPORE — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Sunday urged countries to participate in the June 15-16 peace summit in Switzerland.

Zelenskyy, in his keynote speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, emphasized diplomacy’s role in maintaining Ukrainian efforts in the war with Russia, now in its third year.

“Not so long ago, it seemed that the world would always be fragmented, but we saw that most nations truly desire and are capable of cooperation, at least as far as collective security is concerned,” he told hundreds of foreign government officials and delegates at the regional security dialogue.

He stressed how support from countries around the world has helped Ukraine to maintain its defense capabilities amid aggressive attacks launched by Russia while rescuing some Ukrainian children who had been taken to Russia.

“Diplomacy does more when it truly aims to protect life, [and] together with partners, we are defending life and rules-based world order,” he said, adding that Ukraine’s experience has helped to restore “effective diplomacy,” which has led to the peace summit in Switzerland.

“We are moving into the Global Peace Summit so every leader and every country can show their commitment to peace,” he said, stressing that the global majority can ensure that “what is agreed upon is truly implemented” with their involvement in the summit.

While reiterating the importance for countries around the world to remain “united” and act in “complete harmony,” Zelenskyy also expressed his disappointment in some countries’ absence from the peace summit.

“We are disappointed that some world leaders have not yet confirmed their participation in the peace summit, [and] unfortunately, there are also attempts to disrupt the summit,” he said, adding that these attempts would deny the world the opportunity to “decide on war and peace.”

Zelenskyy’s remarks came as Ukraine continues to experience heavy Russian bombardment. Ukrainian officials told local media outlets that an overnight Russian attack involving 100 missiles and drones targeted the country’s power grid and injured at least 19 people across the country.

It also follows China’s decision to skip the peace summit. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning told reporters May 31 the summit has not met the conditions proposed by China, which is that both Russia and Ukraine should take part in the meeting.

“There is an apparent gap between the meeting’s arrangement and what China stands for as well as the universal expectation in the international community,” she said, adding that China has shared its concerns with relevant parties while vowing to keep promoting peace talks in its own way.

Several European leaders, including German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron, have expressed concerns in recent months about China’s support for Russia’s war efforts and urged Beijing to use its influence to facilitate a peace process.

Western countries have also repeatedly warned about China’s ongoing support for Russian war efforts against Ukraine. In May, the British defense minister said that intelligence showed evidence of Chinese lethal aid to Russia.

During his keynote address Sunday, Chinese Defense Minister Dong Jun reiterated that China has not provided weapons to either party in the Ukraine war and strictly controls the export of dual-use items.

“We stand firmly on the side of peace and dialogue,” he said.

However, when asked to elaborate on China’s plan for the peace process in Ukraine during the Q&A session of his keynote speech, Dong skipped the question and used his time to repeat China’s objection to Taiwan’s efforts to seek independence.

Zelenskyy told a press conference that while the United States has confirmed its “high-level” participation in the peace summit and has been encouraging countries to attend, China has been asking countries “not to attend the summit.”

“These are two different approaches,” he said.

When asked what he hopes to achieve by coming to Singapore, Zelenskyy said he wants to secure more support from Asian countries and hopes to let Asian countries understand what is happening in Ukraine.

“We want Asia to be involved in the peace summit and if we see Asian leaders attend the peace summit, we will know that my trip has succeeded,” he said, adding that he has not had any interaction with the Chinese delegation.

While he said he does not expect Ukraine to receive defensive support from China, Zelenskyy said he hopes China will support Ukraine’s efforts to ensure nuclear and food security in the world.

“It’ll be great if China supports and helps to solve these two issues,” he told journalists.

Some analysts say Dong’s reluctance to elaborate on Beijing’s plan for peace processes in the war shows it does not consider part of its core interests.

“They don’t think it’s a good topic for them, so they are just not going to talk about it,” Ray Powell, a fellow at Stanford University’s Gordian Knot Center for National Security Innovation, told VOA on the sidelines of the Shangri-La meeting.

Powell said that while part of Zelenskyy’s goal may be trying to rally more countries to join the peace summit, he may have difficulty convincing some Indo-Pacific countries to become more involved in the Ukraine War.

“Some Indo-Pacific countries’ immediate concerns don’t go that far out so I think Zelenskyy may just be thinking about keeping certain countries that have been supportive of Ukraine’s cause at the United Nations close and try to make his case to those governments,” Powell said.

Zelenskyy said that by joining the event, countries can involve their people in global affairs and unite the world against one war.  

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