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Biden's absence at peace summit will be a 'standing ovation' for Putin, warns Zelenskyy

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke in Brussels after meeting with Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke in Brussels after meeting with Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo. Copyright Omar Havana/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.
Copyright Omar Havana/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.
By Jorge LiboreiroShona Murray
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US President Joe Biden has not yet confirmed whether he will attend the upcoming peace summit in Switzerland.

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has issued a stark warning ahead of the upcoming peace summit in Switzerland, saying the absence of his US counterpart Joe Biden would represent a "standing ovation" to Russia's Vladimir Putin.

While the US intends to attend the meeting, scheduled to take place between 16 and 17 June, it has not yet confirmed whether Biden, a staunch advocate of Kyiv and the trans-Atlantic alliance, would be the one representing the country.

Biden is likely to attend a G7 summit on 13-15 June but might skip the Swiss occasion to attend instead a campaign fundraiser in Los Angeles alongside George Clooney and Julia Roberts, Bloomberg has reported.

"I would want President Biden to be personally present and I'm aware that America supports this summit but we don't know at which level. And I think that is not a strong decision, with all due to respect to every person in the United States of America because they assist us very much," Zelenskyy said on Tuesday during a visit to Brussels.

"I believe this summit needs President Biden and other leaders need President Biden because they value the US reaction so his absence would only be an applaud to Putin, a standing ovation," he went on.

The Swiss initiative is meant to build upon Zelenskyy's 10-point peace formula and develop a roadmap for a future peace process. The main topics on the agenda will be nuclear safety, freedom of navigation, food safety and humanitarian support.

So far, 70 states and organisations have confirmed their attendance out of 160 delegations that have been invited, according to the Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Half the confirmed participants are European, including European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Russia has not been invited and has convened a BRICS meeting of foreign affairs in the days leading up to the Swiss summit.

Meanwhile, China and Brazil, two countries that the West has accused of failing to denounce Russia's invasion, published last week a joint statement insisting on the need to include both Ukraine and Russia in any peace conference. Following Beijing's policy, the statement did not mention the occupied territories in Eastern Ukraine.

"All parties should create conditions for the resumption of direct dialogue and push for the de-escalation of the situation until the realisation of a comprehensive ceasefire," the two countries wrote.

"China and Brazil support an international peace conference held at a proper time that is recognised by both Russia and Ukraine, with equal participation of all parties as well as fair discussion of all peace plans."

'You're either for peace or war'

Biden's potential no-show, Russia's parallel events and the Chinese-Brazilian statement have cast a shadow over the peace summit, raising questions on whether its outcome will be a credible representation of the international community as a whole.

Speaking on Tuesday, Zelenskyy made a new plea and called on all countries to participate, even if they disagree or have other ideas on how the war should end. He said he was still expecting a formal reply from China and Brazil but noted that "every voice is important," from big to small states.

"We appeal to world leaders: if you desire peace, then let's meet at the peace summit. It's absolutely just that we prepare this platform together with other partners," he said, speaking in Ukrainian. "There is no need to look for alternatives. Please come to the summit, we have an open mic."

"If you desire war, you will go to that mob gathering that Putin is now organising. Be sure that Putin is afraid of this peace summit," he added.

Zelenskyy then urged countries who have remained on the sidelines to speak up and choose where to stand. "If their leaders are silent, that's even worse," he told reporters. "Because you're either for peace or for war."

"If you're silent, you’re satisfied with what's going on," he said.

In reaction to Zelenskyy's remarks, the European Commission highlighted the importance of the upcoming peace summit and said it was working "very intensively" to ensure the "broadest possible representation."

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