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African Leaders Hail Ukraine, Russia Peace Mission


Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa during a meeting with African leaders in Saint Petersburg , June 17, 2023.

WASHINGTON — South African President Cyril Ramaphosa Monday said the continent’s peace mission that recently visited Ukraine and Russia to negotiate a cease-fire between the warring nations was “historic” and received “positive reception” from Moscow and Kyiv.

Africa’s high-profile delegation mandated with negotiating cessation of hostilities between Russia and Ukraine visited the warring nations over the weekend and met with both presidents, Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his counterpart Vladimir Putin.

A statement released Monday by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, a member of the peace mission, said their initiative was “historic” because it was the first time that African leaders “embarked on a peace mission beyond the shores of the continent.”

The meetings held with Putin and Zelenskyy witnessed the African delegation inputting a 10-point proposal that prioritized de-escalation, called for the recognition of countries’ sovereignty, unimpeded grain exports through the Black Sea and sending prisoners of war and children back to their countries of origin.

“One of the key achievements of the Peace Mission was the positive reception we received from both sides, which we found encouraging and which provides cause for optimism that the proposals will be given consideration,” read Ramaphosa’s statement.

“As African leaders, our primary concern is for the lives of the people directly affected by the conflict. We believe that everything should be done to end the fighting to prevent further loss of life, injury, displacement and destruction,” added the statement.

Ibrahima Kane, a Senegalese analyst told VOA that de- escalation of the war between Russia and Ukraine would be beneficial to Africa.

“Maybe the de-escalation they (African leaders) want between Russia and Ukraine will also help to really diminish the oil prices and others,” Kane said.

“I think it’s just defending the interests of the African countries first and also pleading for peace,” he added.

The warring Eastern European leaders agreed to further engagements with Africa, despite the Kremlin deeming some principles “difficult to implement,” and Kyiv ruling out talks with Moscow as long as Russian troops occupied Ukrainian territories.

Russia’s government spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the talks with Africa’s peace mission included themes “which have every chance of being implemented,” and will further be discussed during the Russia-Africa summit due in a month’s time in St. Petersburg.

"Any peace effort is positive if it aims to restore the principles of the UN Charter" with the "goal of a just and lasting peace," French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna told reporters on a visit to Pretoria Monday, dodging journalists' questions over Pretoria's close ties to Russia.

A continental powerhouse, South Africa has refused to condemn the invasion of Ukraine which has largely isolated Moscow on the international stage, saying it wants to stay neutral and prefers dialogue to end the war.

Information for this report was sourced from Agence France-Presse and Reuters. VOA’s James Butty contributed towards this report.