The Saudis nudge peace talks forward

Saudi Arabia hosted the latest peace talks on the Russo-Ukraine War over the weekend. They were informal discussions rather than peace negotiations, producing some interesting insights rather than any major breakthroughs.

Around 40 nations took part, including China, which skipped an earlier summit and has resisted calls to condemn Russia. Russia itself wasn’t invited.

Why did Saudi Arabia play host?

  • 🤝 It still enjoys functional ties with all the major players, having helped to negotiate prisoner swaps, backed Ukraine in UN resolutions, and assisted Russia with higher oil prices, plus
  • 👼 For Riyadh, playing host also helps revive its reputation and cement its position as both a regional leader and global player.

So what actually happened?

  • 🌏 More than twice as many countries participated in these Jeddah talks compared to the June gathering in Copenhagen
  • 🇺🇳 There was also more common ground this time around, with participants (including all BRICS members except Russia) reportedly taking a pretty productive approach, and
  • 🇨🇳 China also gave its own peace plan another run, prompting France and others to push back (the plan involves a ceasefire that critics say would allow Russia to consolidate its gains in Ukraine).

So what’s next? The idea is now for various working groups to continue the discussions. If they make enough progress, there’s the possibility of a leader-level summit to endorse some key principles for ending the war.

Intrigue’s take: If this all sounds convoluted, that’s because it is. But that’s also how diplomacy works: any meaningful engagement between world leaders is generally the culmination of arduous talks at more junior levels.

So looking ahead, direct Moscow-Kyiv negotiations still seem remote. But there’s a chance this Jeddah process could produce practical ideas in the meantime, on issues like nuclear safety, prisoner returns, and wheat exports. Russia would then face the choice of playing ball, or isolating itself further.

Also worth noting:

  • Ukraine described the talks as “an extremely honest, open conversation”. The Kremlin said “any attempt to promote a peaceful settlement deserves a positive evaluation”, while Russia’s foreign ministry described the talks as a “hoax”, and “doomed”.
  • On the final day of the talks yesterday (Sunday), Russia mounted a large missile and drone attack on Ukraine, following Ukraine’s drone attack on a Russian oil tanker in the Kerch Strait.
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