Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy attended a summit of the Arab League in Saudi Arabia on Friday to canvas support for his people, while Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman expressed his readiness to mediate in the war between Moscow and Kyiv.
In his address to the summit, Zelenskyy said some countries including members of the Arab League preferred to “turn a blind eye” to Russia’s illegal annexation of Ukrainian land and to its jailing of some Ukrainians during the 15-month war.
“I am sure we can all be united in saving people from the cages of Russian prisons,” he said, speaking in English.
“I invite all of you who respect peace to join the implementation of the peace formula and thus, to reduce enmity, wars, suffering, and evil,” the Ukrainian president went on to say.
“Russia is weak, we beat it when it had more weapons in their hands. Its aggressiveness does not come from strength but from the understanding that the time of empires has passed,” he added.
Zelenskyy thanked Saudi Arabia for helping secure their release and called for moves to protect the Ukrainian Muslim community — a reference to Crimean Tatars in the Crimea peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014.
“Even if there are people here at the summit who have a different view on the war on our land in calling it a conflict, I am sure we can all be united in saving people from the cages of Russian prisons,” he said.
Saudi Arabia seeks political solution to the crisis
“We reaffirm the kingdom’s readiness to continue mediating efforts between Russia and Ukraine, and to support all international efforts aimed at resolving the crisis politically in a way that contributes to achieving security,” the Saudi Crown Prince said in his opening speech.
Prince Mohammed has mediated in the conflict before.
Zelenskyy, who was also due to attend a summit of the G7 leaders in the Japanese city of Hiroshima this weekend, thanked Saudi Arabia for its past help and said delegates would each receive the text of his 10-point peace plan. He asked them to work with Ukraine directly without intermediaries.
Gulf states have tried to remain neutral in the Ukraine conflict despite Western pressure on Gulf oil producers to help isolate Russia, a fellow OPEC+ member.
Last year, in a diplomatic coup, Crown Prince Mohammed secured the release of 10 foreigners captured by Russia in Ukraine. His close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin apparently made the move possible.
Saudi Arabia faced heavy criticism from the United States over an OPEC+ decision to cut oil production, seen as helping Russia to refill its coffers by boosting prices.
Even though the October decision initially drew the ire of the United States and other Western countries, market dynamics since then have shown the cuts to be prudent.
At a time when Russia’s war on Ukraine has roiled global energy markets, the kingdom’s role as the world’s largest oil exporter has grown in importance to both Washington and Moscow.
Also at the Jeddah gathering, Arab leaders warmly welcomed back into their fold Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad -who has received heavy support from Russia in his country’s civil war – following a decade of isolation.