President Volodymyr Zelensky’s top diplomatic adviser said officials from up to 70 nations will meet in Malta to discuss Ukraine’s vision for peace this weekend, rejecting the idea that cracks are appearing in allied support for Kyiv.
The talks on Saturday and Sunday will bring together national security advisers and foreign ministry officials to discuss Zelensky’s 10-point blueprint for a peace settlement, as Russia’s war grinds through its 21st month with no end in sight.
The talks, which do not involve Russia, will help gauge Ukraine and the West’s ability to drum up continued and broader support, particularly in the Global South, as the conflict in Israel dominates headlines, moving the focus from Kyiv.
Ihor Zhovkva, Zelensky’s adviser, said some nations were still confirming their plans, but that up to 70 were expected in Malta, up from the 43 who attended the previous round in Jeddah in August, and the 15 who went to Copenhagen for talks in June.
“You can clearly see this is a growing number of countries compared to Jeddah and it’s very important it will be representatives of countries of all the continents,” he told Reuters in an interview in his office in Kyiv late on Thursday.
The Zelensky formula’s 10 points include calls for the restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, withdrawal of Russian troops, protection of food and energy supplies, nuclear safety and the release of all prisoners.
Zhovkva declined to name the countries that will attend, saying that could help Moscow lobby them not to come, but, asked whether Beijing would send an emissary, he said: “We are working with many countries, including China.”
China, which has maintained close economic and diplomatic ties with Russia during the war, attended the talks in Jeddah.
Zhovkva said Kyiv still aimed to convene a Global Peace Summit this year.
“I cannot predict the discussion, but one of the most possible and desirable outcomes (of the Malta talks) will be to define the place and date of a peace formula summit at the level of heads of state and government.”
Privately, Western officials say they are concerned the conflict in the Middle East will deal a setback to Ukraine’s push to win over the Global South and that it will also distract attention from Ukraine’s cause.
This week, European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said he was worried that accusations of double standards in the West’s view of the wars in Ukraine and the Middle East could result in fewer votes of support for Ukraine at the United Nations.
Zhovkva said he saw no evidence of diplomatic setbacks in the Global South, pointing to recent phone calls between Zelensky and the president of Turkey, the Saudi crown prince, the emir of Qatar and the president of South Africa. He said more contacts were planned.
He also said he did not believe the election of Mike Johnson as the new speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives will deal a blow to vital military aid from the United States.
Johnson said on Thursday that he had concerns about Ukraine funding in general and he wanted to understand the “end game” in Ukraine.
Zhovkva said the election of a House speaker was a positive as it ended a three-week political vacuum and that he and Zelensky had not seen any signs of opposition to funding for Ukraine from either U.S. party when they visited Washington in September.
“I analyzed the words of newly elected speaker Mr Johnson before he was elected or even after he was elected and I haven’t heard that he himself or members of his party are deciding to cut military support to Ukraine,” he said.
Separately, in Brussels, most EU leaders said on Friday they backed a plan to support Ukraine with 50 billion euros ($53 billion) over the next four years, though Hungary and Slovakia voiced reservations ahead of a decision the bloc needs to take unanimously in December.