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War in Ukraine must stop, South Africa’s Ramaphosa tells Putin | Russia-Ukraine war news

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who was in Russia as part of a peace-seeking delegation, told Russian President Vladimir Putin that the war in Ukraine must stop.

Ramaphosa laid out 10 points for the African Peace Initiative, which is seeking to agree on a series of “confidence-building measures” – even as Ukraine launched a counteroffensive last week to push back Russian troops.

“This war must end … it must be resolved through negotiations and diplomacy,” Ramaphosa said on Saturday at St. Petersburg’s 18th-century Konstantinovsky Palace.

He added that his delegation, made up of seven African leaders, “brought a very clear message: this war must end”.

“This war has had a negative impact on the African continent and many other countries around the world,” Ramaphosa said.

Putin interrupted the opening remarks of African leaders seeking to mediate in the Ukraine conflict with a list of reasons he believed many of their proposals were misguided.

He reiterated his position that Ukraine and the West were in conflict long before Russia sent armed forces across the border last February. He said Russia had never refused talks with Ukraine but had been blocked by Kiev.

This handout photo taken by RIA Novosti on June 17, 2023 shows Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, with representatives of African leaders at the Konstantinovsky Palace in Strelna, outside St Petersburg group meeting
Russian President Vladimir Putin Meets with Delegation of African Leaders at Constantine Palace [Pavel Bednyakov/Ria Novosti via AFP]

The group also included leaders from Egypt, the Republic of Congo, Senegal, Zambia, Uganda and the Comoros. On Friday, the delegation held talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kiev.

Peace talks with Russia will only be possible after Moscow withdraws its troops from occupied Ukrainian territory, Ukraine’s leader said after meeting with leaders.

“We are here to hear your voice, and through you to hear the voice of the Russian people,” Comorian President Azali Assoumani, who is now the chairman of the African Union, told Putin. “We want to encourage you to engage in dialogue with Ukraine. negotiation.”

African countries have divided their response to the conflict, with some siding with Ukraine while others remained neutral or leaned towards Moscow.

In talks with Zelensky, the Ukrainian president asked African leaders to push Putin to release political prisoners as a confidence-building measure.

“Balanced” Approach

Putin, 70, on Saturday praised African nations for their “balanced approach” to the conflict in Ukraine.

“We welcome the balanced approach of our African friends to the crisis in Ukraine,” Putin told the visiting leaders. “We are open to a constructive dialogue with all those who wish for peace, based on the principles of respect for each other’s interests and justice.”

The Russian leader also said exporting Ukrainian grain under a deal to ensure Ukrainian food security through the Black Sea would not help solve the problems Africa faces due to high global food prices – as only 3% goes to the poorest countries.

Putin said the food crisis was caused by the actions of Western countries, not what Russia called a “special military operation” in Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Saturday there appeared to be “no chance” of extending a deal that would allow Ukraine to safely export grain across the Black Sea through waters controlled by Russia.

“It’s almost impossible to predict any final decision here, but I can say that from where we are, the deal has no chance,” Peskov told Russian news outlet Izvestia.

Al Jazeera’s Ali Hashim, reporting from Moscow, said that while many doubted that the peace mission would lead to a breakthrough between Russia and Ukraine, some believed that African leaders’ experience from internal and regional conflicts might be able to propose ” Out of the box “solution out of the box”.

“However, this crisis is multilayered and intertwined…that’s why it’s so complex. Americans, Europeans, Chinese…everyone is trying to have their say on it and it doesn’t seem to It will be resolved quickly.”

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