More Countries Join Talks on Ukraine Leader's Peace Formula. But Russia Is Absent and War Grinds on

Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis
Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis briefs the media at a news conference during the 4th meeting of the National Security Advisors, NSA, on the peace formula for Ukraine at the eve of the World Economy Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Sunday, Jan. 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

DAVOS, Switzerland (AP) — Leaders of talks on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's peace formula on Sunday said a growing number of countries are working to help set the groundwork for Russia to join one day, an admittedly distant goal as the nearly two-year war grinds on and neither side willing to cede ground.

The fourth such meeting of national security advisers takes place in the Swiss town of Davos, where Zelenskyy is set to attend the World Economic Forum's annual meeting starting Tuesday. He will endeavor to keep up international focus on Ukraine's defense amid eroding support for Kyiv in the West and swelling distractions like conflict in the Middle East.

Andriy Yermak, the Ukrainian president’s chief of staff, posted photos of the meeting's opening and hailed a “good sign” that the number of participants in a string of conferences on Zelenskyy’s peace formula was growing — nearly half from Europe, as well as 18 from Asia and 12 from Africa.

    "Countries from the Global South are increasingly getting involved in our work. It shows understanding that this European conflict is in fact a challenge for all humanity," he wrote.

    Zelenskyy has presented a 10-point peace formula that, among other things, seeks the expulsion of all Russian forces from Ukraine and accountability for war crimes — at a time when the two sides are fighting from largely static positions along a roughly 1,500-kilometer (930-mile) front line. Such ideas are rejected out of hand by Moscow.

    Yermak said if Ukraine’s territorial integrity — now violated by Russia including through illegal annexations — is not restored, “soon other aggressors elsewhere in the world will be able to seize parts of other countries and start staging fake elections there.”

    Co-host Ignazio Cassis, the Swiss foreign minister, said 83 delegations were on hand for the Davos talks.

    “Peace is something that Ukraine needs,” he said during a break in the talks Sunday. “We are going to do all we can to end this war.”

    The talks in Davos aim to build on previous such closed-door efforts in Denmark, Saudi Arabia and Malta last summer and fall. Any peace deal naturally will require Russian participation — and Moscow is not represented at the talks.

    The last round, in Malta in October, involved envoys from 65 countries.

    Cassis said the plan should serve as a “departure point” toward possible peace, and stressed the need to reduce the conflict from intensifying. He said the talks aim to get ready for the moment when Russia might join a peace discussion.

    Russia, which hasn't been invited to any of the meetings, has dismissed the initiative as biased.

    “For the moment it's illusory to think that Russia would respond positively to an invitation,” he added, “but that's not the goal” of the Davos conference. “For now, Russia is not ready to take any step or make any concession.”

    Cassis acknowledged “many challenges” and negotiators were working to “modulate” the fine print of the peace formula to make it more workable as a blueprint for the way forward.

    He said neither Ukraine nor Russia was ready to make territorial concessions.

    Russian forces have recently stepped up missile and drone attacks that have stretched Ukraine’s air defense resources, leaving the country vulnerable in the 22-month war unless it can secure further weapons supplies.

    “The war is far from over and peace is still nowhere in sight," the Swiss department of foreign affairs said in a statement previewing Sunday's talks.

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