Exclusive: African leaders propose “confidence-building measures” for Russia and Ukraine

  • African leaders will travel to Ukraine and Russia on Friday and Saturday
  • It aims to begin a “diplomacy-led” process to resolve the conflict
  • Africa was hit hard by the economic fallout from the war

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – African leaders may propose a series of “confidence-building measures” during their initial efforts to mediate the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, according to a draft framework document seen by Reuters on Thursday.

Senegalese President Macky Sall and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa are leading a delegation that includes leaders from Zambia and Comoros and the Egyptian prime minister, who will travel to Kiev on Friday and St. Petersburg on Saturday.

They are expected to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The visit comes shortly after Ukraine last week launched the main phase of a counter-offensive it hopes will help liberate territory held by Russian forces in the south and east.

The framework document, which has not been made public, states that the mission’s goal is to “reinforce the importance of peace and encourage the parties to agree to a negotiation process led by diplomacy.”

“The conflict, as well as the sanctions imposed on Russia by the main trading partners of the (African) continent, have had a negative impact on African economies and livelihoods,” the statement said.

The document lists a number of actions that African leaders could propose as part of the first phase of their engagement with the warring parties.

Such measures could include the withdrawal of Russian forces, the removal of tactical nuclear weapons from Belarus, the suspension of enforcement of the International Criminal Court’s arrest warrant targeting Putin, and the easing of sanctions.

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The document stated that “the aforementioned measures should aim to facilitate the creation of an environment conducive to a ceasefire, and this will allow the parties to build confidence and consider formulating their strategies for restoring peace.”

The document stated that a cessation of hostilities agreement could follow and would have to be accompanied by negotiations between Russia and the West.

Those talks will need to address issues including the deployment of medium-range weapons systems, tactical nuclear weapons and biological weapons systems.

competing peace plans

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Ramaphosa gave him an account of African efforts. A UN spokesman said the two spoke a month ago.

“Of course I always encourage all efforts related to peace. It is not for me to specify what they will achieve,” Guterres told reporters on Thursday. “This is an important initiative based on the goodwill of a number of meaningful countries.”

African peace efforts are just one of several competing initiatives aimed at ending the fighting.

China, which has promoted its own peace plan, sent a senior envoy to Kiev, Moscow and European capitals to discuss a “political settlement” in May. The Vatican also carried out a peace mission last month. This month, Indonesia’s defense minister proposed a peace plan, which Kiev quickly rejected.

Kiev says its plan, which provides for the withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukrainian territory, should be the basis for any settlement of the war that Russia launched in February last year, which Moscow described as a “special military operation” to “undermine” its neighbor.

Since the outbreak of the war, Africa has been at the center of a renewed competition for influence between Russia and China on the one hand and Western countries calling for condemnation of Moscow on the other.

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However, African governments have remained largely neutral.

Ukraine has waged a wartime campaign to align the Global South and challenge Russia’s diplomatic influence, as it tries to solidify Zelensky’s vision as the only viable path to peace in his country.

The outreach, which last month saw Ukraine’s foreign minister take a second wartime tour of African nations, has gained more urgency as competing peace proposals surfaced in other capitals.

Meanwhile, Russia has sent a steady stream of high-level delegations to Africa over the past year as it seeks to counter Western efforts to influence governments’ positions on the conflict.

The Kremlin has played down chances of meaningful peace talks with Kiev while saying it remains ready to listen and be open to third-party initiatives even when it says the terms of a peace process are not currently met.

It says the starting point for progress would be for the West to stop supplying weapons, intelligence and training to Kiev. Russia has shown no indications that it is willing to back out of the annexation of four Ukrainian regions, as it stipulated, and remains adamant that Ukraine should not be in NATO.

African countries were hit hard by the fallout from the war, which disrupted grain and other food supplies, exacerbated food price inflation, and exacerbated existing hunger crises on the continent.

The Black Sea Grain Initiative — brokered by the United Nations and Turkey in July last year — helped relieve some of that pressure, though Putin indicated this week that Russia may withdraw from the agreement.

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Among the measures that African leaders could propose in the first phase of their engagement was an “unconditional grain and fertilizer deal”.

Johannesburg Newsroom Report; Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols at the United Nations and Tom Palmforth in Kiev; Writing by Joe Bavier and Olivia Komwenda Mtbambo Editing by Mark Potter and Nick McPhee

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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