African leaders could propose a series of “confidence building measures” during their initial efforts to mediate in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, according to a draft framework document seen by Reuters on Thursday.
Senegal President Macky Sall and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa are heading a delegation including leaders from Zambia, the Comoros, and Egypt’s prime minister that will travel to Kyiv on Friday and St. Petersburg on Saturday.
They are expected to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The visit comes shortly after Ukraine last week launched the main phase of a counteroffensive it hopes will help liberate territory occupied by Russian forces in the south and east.
The framework document, which has not been made public, states that the objective of the mission is “to promote the importance of peace and to encourage the parties to agree to a diplomacy-led process of negotiations”.
“The conflict, as well as the sanctions placed on Russia by major trading partners of the (African) Continent, have had an adverse effect on African economies and livelihoods,” it said.
The document lists a number of measures that could be proposed by the African leaders as part of the first stage of their engagement with the warring parties.
Those measures could include a Russian troop pull-back, removal of tactical nuclear weapons from Belarus, suspension of implementation of an International Criminal Court arrest warrant targeting Putin, and sanctions relief.
“The above-mentioned measures should aim to facilitate the creation of an environment conducive for a ceasefire, and that will allow the parties to build trust and to consider formulating their peace restoration strategies,” the document said.
A cessation of hostilities agreement could follow and would need to be accompanied by negotiations between Russia and the West, the document stated.
Those talks would need to treat issues including the deployment of medium-range weapons systems, tactical nuclear arms and biological weapons systems.
COMPETING PEACE PLANS
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Ramaphosa had given him a description of the African efforts. The pair spoke a month ago, a U.N. spokesperson said.
“Of course, I always encourage all efforts related to peace. It’s not for me to define what they will achieve,” Guterres told reporters on Thursday. “This is an important initiative based on the goodwill of a number of meaningful countries.”
The African peace effort is just one of several competing initiatives aimed at ending the fighting.
China, which has touted its own peace plan, sent a top envoy to Kyiv, Moscow and European capitals to discuss a “political settlement” in May. The Vatican also fleshed out a peace mission last month. This month, Indonesia’s defence minister proposed a peace plan, which Kyiv quickly dismissed.
Kyiv says its plan, which envisages the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukrainian land, must be the basis for any settlement of the war launched by Russia in February last year, which Moscow labels a “special military operation” to “denazify” its neighbour.
Since the war’s outbreak, Africa has been at the centre of renewed competition for influence between Russia and China on one side and Western nations calling for a condemnation of Moscow on the other.
African governments, however, have remained largely neutral.
Ukraine has conducted a wartime push to court the Global South and challenge Russian diplomatic influence, as it tries to cement the vision laid out by Zelenskiy as the only viable path to peace in his country.
The outreach, which last month saw Ukraine’s foreign minister embark on a second wartime tour of African countries, has taken on greater urgency as rival peace proposals have popped up in other capitals.
Russia, meanwhile, has dispatched a steady stream of high-level delegations to Africa over the past year as it seeks to counter Western efforts to sway governments’ positions on the conflict.
The Kremlin has played down the chances of meaningful peace talks with Kyiv while saying it remains ready to listen and open to third party initiatives even as it says the conditions for a peace process are currently not in place.
A starting point for progress, it says, would be for the West to stop supplying Kyiv with weapons, intelligence and training. Russia has shown no signs of being willing to reverse its self-proclaimed annexation of four Ukrainian regions and remains adamant that Ukraine should not be in NATO.
African countries have been hit hard by the fallout from the war, which has disrupted supplies of grain and other food supplies, aggravated food price inflation and worsened existing hunger crises on the continent.
A Black Sea grain initiative – brokered by the United Nations and Turkey in July last year – has helped alleviate some of that pressure, though Putin this week suggested Russia might quit the agreement.
Among the measures that could be proposed by the African leaders in the first stage of their engagement was an “unconditional grain and fertiliser deal”.