Wednesday, July 24, 2024

WORLD | 16-06-2024 09:37

Milei reiterates Argentina's support for Ukraine during meeting with Zelenskyy

President Javier Milei meets with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy as world leaders gather in Switzerland to look for a path towards a peace process – albeit without Russia.

President Javier Milei met his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Switzerland on Saturday as he reiterated Argentina’s support for the war-torn nation.

Milei, 53, travelled to Zelenskyy’s Global Peace Summit after attending the G7 summit in Italy and his presence was rewarded with an honour by the Ukrainian leader. 

Argentina’s President was honoured with the Order of Freedom, a medal given in recognition of his support for Ukraine's sovereignty and independence.

"I thanked President Milei for attending the Peace Summit. We are also grateful for the large presence of Latin American countries. I am sure that history will remember this long road to peace," Zelenskyy said in a post on social media.

For his part, Milei said he was honoured to receive such a distinction from Ukraine. "I hope I am up to the task," said the Argentine head of state as he received the medal. 

The duo discussed bilateral cooperation and trade, said Argentina’s government in a statement.

Milei’s delegation at the meeting included Defence Minister Luis Petri, Foreign Minister Diana Mondino and presidential chief-of-staff Karina Milei.


Peace summit

More than two years after Russia invaded, leaders and top officials from more than 90 states spent the weekend at a Swiss mountainside resort for a landmark two-day summit dedicated to resolving the largest European conflict since World War II.

The summit, snubbed by Russia and its ally China, comes as Ukraine is struggling on the battlefield, where it is outmanned and outgunned.

On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded Kyiv's effective surrender as a basis for peace talks.

Putin's call for Ukraine to withdraw from the south and east of the country were widely dismissed at the summit.

But the Kremlin insisted Sunday that Ukraine should "reflect" on Putin's demands, citing the military situation on the ground.

"The current dynamic of the situation at the front shows us clearly that it's continuing to worsen for the Ukrainians. It's probable that a politician who puts the interests of his country above his own and those of his masters would reflect on such a proposal," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Russia on Sunday claimed its troops had captured Zagrine village in southern Ukraine, continuing its progress on the front line.

Delivering a speech at the peace summit earlier in the day, Milei expressed his “maximum support for the people of Ukraine and to my friend Zelenskyy."

He said Argentina “repudiated any form of violence and war as an illegitimate mechanism to settle conflicts between nations.”

“War can never be the answer to problems that should be settled in the political sphere," he told world leaders.


‘Stealing of children’

The Burgenstock talks are framed around areas of common ground between Zelensky's 10-point peace plan presented in late 2022, and UN resolutions on the war that passed with widespread support.

The tight remit was an attempt to garner the broadest support by sticking firmly to topics covered by international law and the United Nations charter.

Countries split into three working groups on Sunday looking at nuclear safety and security, humanitarian issues, and food security and freedom of navigation on the Black Sea.

The session on humanitarian aspects focused on issues around prisoners-of-war, civil detainees, internees and the fate of missing persons.

It also discussed the repatriation of children taken from occupied Ukrainian territory into Russia.

"We have seen around 20,000 Ukrainian children effectively abducted from their families, community and country. How terrifying a thing is that to say?" Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris told reporters.

"When did it become acceptable for children to be a weapon of war? It is utterly illegal and morally repugnant.

"This is the stealing of children and it's about time the international community calls it out."

Zelenskyy also thanked Argentina for joining the International Coalition for the Return of Ukrainian Children, a push to resolve the 20,000 children Kyiv says have been “illegally deported” or “forcibly transferred” by the Russian Federation from Ukraine.

"We discussed the next steps in the implementation of the specific points of the Peace Formula. I thank Argentina for recently joining the International Coalition for the Return of Ukrainian Children. We also discussed bilateral trade and cooperation,” said the Ukrainian leader.


Russian criticism

Milei has been a vocal supporter of Zelenskyy since taking office and on Saturday he again condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

"We believe that no-one has the right to invade another country and here there is clearly an invader, which is Russia, and someone who was invaded and attacked, which is the case of Ukraine," said Milei in a video broadcast on social media.

Moscow, in turn, criticised the meeting and Milei’s presence at the summit, expressing their “deep disappointment” through their ambassador in Buenos Aires, Dmitry Feoktistov.

The diplomat said he hoped the Milei administration would refrain from interfering in the Ukraine crisis, maintaining its traditionally neutral stance. 

"This will contribute to preserving the friendly nature of Russian-Argentine relations, which historically have been immune to political tendencies," he said in quotes reported by China's Xinhua news agency.

Ambassador Feoktistov said any reports of Argentine military aid to Ukraine would be “considered a hostile act against Russia.”

Argentina was recently added to the Ukraine Defence Contact Group (UDCG), a 54-nation alliance that coordinates humanitarian and military aid to Kiev. The UDCG was created by the US and its allies on 26 April 2022, two months after the start of the war.



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