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African peace plan in tatters just minutes into talks as Putin rejects proposals

Cyril Ramaphosa: ‘The war cannot go on forever’

The six-nation strong African delegation attempting to broker peace between Russia and Ukraine hardly had the confidence of the rest of the world; as they flew home following a fruitless weekend in eastern Europe. They also may no longer be questioning why that was the case.

Vladimir Putin summarily rejected appeals from the African leaders within moments of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s opening speech on Saturday, dismissing the predicate of internationally accepted borders, blaming Ukraine for blocking the possibility for peace and repeating claims that the West was somehow responsible for his full-scale invasion.

The day before, the delegation had arrived in Kyiv as Russia carried out one of its “largest missile attacks in weeks” on the Ukrainian capital, according to the country’s foreign minister, only to later fly to Moscow to meet with the very man who had signed off on those strikes.

Any hope that the African delegation’s 10-point plan for peace in eastern Europe would prove even vaguely successful were swiftly dashed upon their arrival.

After Russia bombed Kyiv while the delegation were present in the city on Friday, a former US ambassador to Zimbabwe told that the strikes showed the African leaders what Putin “really thought of them”.

After Mr Rampahosa, a leader nevertheless evermore friendly with his Russian counterpart, was cut off by Putin the following day, what little faith in their plans they still had must have disappeared.

The South African President urged both sides to seek a ceasefire “through negotiations and diplomatic means”, based on ten principles including de-escalation and security guarantees.

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He told Putin: “The war cannot go on forever. All wars have to be settled and come to an end at some stage. And we are here to communicate a very clear message that we would like this war to be ended.”

The delegation as a whole also called for unimpeded grain exports through the Black Sea, and for both sides to return prisoners of war and children displaced by the conflict.

In the same breath as stressing his commitment to the African continent, however, Putin responded by ignoring the minutiae of the delegation’s proposal and mendaciously navigating around Russia’s responsibility for its “special military operation”.

He claimed that Russia was “open to constructive dialogue with anyone who wants to establish peace on the principles of fairness and respect for the parties’ legitimate interests”, effectively saying he would never negotiate with anyone that did not recognise what the Kremlin has called the “new reality”, referring to the illegal annexation of four Ukrainian provinces along the southern regions.

On Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he would not negotiate a ceasefire until all Russian and pro-Russian soldiers were behind the post Soviet Union 1991 borders, which includes Crimea.

The two positions are clearly irreconcilable, and have been known to be so for months, hence why negotiations between the two nations have been at an impasse since last March.

Whether the African delegation truly believed they could circumvent this issue is unknown; their attempts, however, were entirely unsuccessful.

Their brief, perilous trip begs the question of whether their proposal was more about diplomatic status – only China has also spoken to both sides about peace – than a genuine, realistic aim to end the war.

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