Swiss FM says Ukraine peace impossible without involvement from Russia

Bern has announced a major conference in June seeking to end the conflict, which Moscow has no plans to attend

Any diplomatic efforts to resolve the Ukraine conflict will be fruitless unless Russia is involved in the process, Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis has said.

Switzerland is planning to host a high-level Ukraine peace conference June 2024 at the Burgenstock resort near Lake Lucerne, seeking “to create a common understanding of a framework favorable” for ending the conflict and establishing a “concrete roadmap” for peace.

Earlier media reports suggested that up to 100 nations could be present at the event. Russia, however, has signaled that it will not attend, even if officially invited. It has argued that the gathering will be promoting the ‘peace formula’ of Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky, which demands that Moscow withdraw from all territories that Kiev claims as its own, and the creation of a tribunal to prosecute Russia for alleged war crimes. Moscow has dismissed the initiative as “detached from reality.”

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Cassis noted that the conference would be organized at Zelensky’s request, adding that there are sufficient conditions to launch a high-profile push for peace.

“The first country we talked to after Ukraine was, of course, Russia. Because no peace process can take place without Russia, even if it won’t be present at the first meeting,” he said.

The diplomat acknowledged that Moscow would have to be involved “sooner or later, but not necessarily from day one,” suggesting that the first conference may focus on “exactly how to invite Russia and what role to give it”.

Echoing those remarks, Swiss President Viola Amherd warned that the success of the summit was by no means guaranteed. “The alternative would be to do nothing… We will not sign a peace plan at this conference. We think there will be a second conference, but we want to start the process with this one.”

While Moscow intends to boycott the Swiss-hosted peace conference, it maintains that it is open to talks over Ukraine, both directly and with Kiev’s Western backers.

However, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said last month that before any negotiations could begin Kiev must lift its ban on engagement with the current Russian leadership. A decree to that effect was signed by Zelensky in the autumn of 2022 after four former Ukrainian regions overwhelmingly voted to join Russia.