In continuation of its efforts in recent years to play the role of an active and effective actor, on August 5 and 6, Saudi Arabia hosted an international meeting for a peaceful settlement of the war in Ukraine, albeit in the absence of the Russian side. The purpose of the meeting, which was attended by representatives from about 40 countries including Brazil, England, India, China, the United States, Turkey, South Africa and the countries of the European Union, was to review the 10-Article peace plan that Ukrainian President Zelenskyy presented in November 2022.
Holding this meeting in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, is important from various dimensions; From one point of view, this meeting was one of the few times that an Arab country, which ironically is one of the largest suppliers of the world's energy needs, has hosted and somehow mediated for a possible end to an international crisis. In fact, historically, Saudi Arabia's attempt to intervene or mediate in wars and conflicts has been mostly at the regional level and limited to internal conflicts or between Arab countries, such as the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the Yemeni civil war, and the Syrian civil war, power transfer in Iraq and political crises in Lebanon. Therefore, hosting an international meeting to end Russia's war against Ukraine, which is also interpreted as a war between Western countries and Russia, is a new example and shows the effort of this Arab country to emphasize its role in the international arena. In other words, through the planned negotiations of this meeting, Saudi Arabia tried to find ways for a peaceful settlement of the war in Ukraine and to register the international credibility of this matter.
Another important point is that the first meeting on achieving peace in Ukraine was held in Copenhagen, Denmark in June 2023 with the presence of 15 countries without any media fanfare. However, now Saudi Arabia has succeeded in leaving behind the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi. and erasing his name from the list of countries that violate human rights, in the middle of the hottest summer recorded in the world, in the port city of Jeddah, to host leaders and representatives from about 40 countries of the world, and to display the peaceful image of an actor aligned with the international community.
On the other hand, the presence of influential non-western powers such as China, India, South Africa and Brazil also contains an important message; So far, these countries have not been willing to take a clear stance in support of one side of the war between Russia and Ukraine and have tried to secure their interests from both sides by maintaining neutrality. The importance of neutrality for these countries is such that China refused to participate in the previous peace meeting held in Denmark. However, due to its good relations with Saudi Arabia, this country accepted the invitation of the Saudi authorities and participated in a meeting that the Russian authorities called ridiculous and refused to attend. This issue not only created an opportunity for Western countries to pressure these non-Western powers to take a clear stand, but also strengthened Ukraine's stance and showed that Russia's narrative that Ukraine is supported only by Western countries, has also faced some buts and ifs.
Another important aspect of the Jeddah meeting was the message of this meeting for Iran; By holding this meeting, Saudi Arabia tried to show off its maneuvering power among the eastern and western powers of Iran and show from a superior position that it has no permanent friends or enemies and that its interests move in the same direction at any moment. Of course, moreover, it has the ability to play in different fields, not only in the region, but also in the international arena.
Despite the above important aspects, it must be said that the margins of the Jeddah meeting were more important than its main text; Because the ultimate goal of this meeting was to reach the final solutions to restore peace to Ukraine; While one of the parties to this war, namely Russia, was not present in this international meeting, and the peace plan proposed by Ukraine was completely one-sided and only reflected the wishes and demands of this country. Although Saudi Arabia is one of Russia's allies, and it can be assumed that Russia's conditions and requests were discussed, especially in the bilateral meetings that were held on the sidelines of the Jeddah meeting, but the historical record has shown that the meetings in which only one of the involved parties being present and having the possibility to pose its terms and demands will not lead to real, comprehensive and sustainable peace. Therefore, it can be said that the meeting in Jeddah was also an important event, which, unfortunately, cannot be expected to achieve tangible results for achieving peace.
Mohammad Mahdi Mazaheri, University Professor
(The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the IPIS)