At its annual summit, the Arab League actually deals with conflicts and the situation in its region. Now a prominent surprise guest is appearing in Saudi Arabia.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made a surprise trip to Saudi Arabia for the Arab League summit. Coming from Poland, Zelenskyj landed in the coastal city of Jeddah, as reported by the Al-Arabiya news channel.
According to diplomatic circles, Saudi King Salman had invited Selenskyj as a guest of honor to the League’s annual summit. The Gulf States mostly maintain good relations with Russia and strive for neutrality in the Ukraine war.
“Our priorities are the return of our political prisoners from Crimea and the temporarily occupied territories, the return of all prisoners and illegally deported,” Zelenskyy wrote. The focus will also be on “the presentation of our peace formula, the implementation of which must involve as many countries as possible” and “the guarantee of energy security next winter”. But it is also about protecting the Islamic community in Ukraine.
On the ground, Zelenskyy accused some leaders in the Arab world of a lack of support for his country against the Russian invaders. “Unfortunately, some in the world and here in your circle turn a blind eye,” Zelenskyj said. That applies to Ukrainians in Russian prisons and “illegal annexations”. Some participants at the Arab summit “have a different view of the war in our country and call it a conflict,” said Zelenskyy.
A possible meeting between Zelenskyy and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is taking part in a league summit for the first time after years of isolation, could be particularly interesting. Assad is closely allied in the Syrian civil war with Russia, which has been bombing targets in Syria in support of government troops since 2015. Syria was also one of just five countries in March 2022 to vote against a resolution at the UN General Assembly condemning Russia’s invasion and calling for a troop withdrawal.
Saudi Arabia has offered to act as a mediator on several occasions
According to Arab diplomats in Riyadh, Zelenskyy’s participation offers an opportunity to talk about a solution to the conflict. Ways to start direct negotiations between Moscow and Kiev could also be discussed, it said. Saudi Arabia has offered to act as a mediator on several occasions. Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan visited Kiev and Moscow in February and March, where he met his counterparts from both countries.
The Russian war of aggression has put the Gulf States in an awkward position. They are under pressure to choose between their historic partnership with the US and their growing economic and political ties to Russia, wrote Middle East Institute (MEI) expert Gerald Feierstein shortly after the war broke out last year. “While Europe burns, the Gulf States hide under the table.”
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