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Putin and Xi expect Ukraine peace talks by end of year – Orban

The EU should play a leading role in organizing negotiations between Moscow and Kiev, the Hungarian prime minister has said

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has told EU officials that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping foresee peace talks between Russia and Ukraine before the end of 2024, according to documents seen by Spanish newspaper El Pais.

Orban made his claim in diplomatic cables sent to European Council President Charles Michel and the leaders of EU member states, El Pais reported on Wednesday. According to the newspaper, Orban was asked by several EU leaders to explain his recent meetings with Putin, Xi, and Ukrainian leader Vladimir Zelensky.

With American officials preoccupied with the upcoming presidential election, Orban reportedly argued in the document that the time was right for “a European initiative” to settle the conflict, which the US could then support.

“I put forward the idea that a newly elected [US] president will face pressure to present a quick political result, even before taking office,” he wrote, describing his conversation with Xi. “A ceasefire that precedes peace talks, as well as quick and intensive peace talks, could be in the interest of a new administration.”

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While Xi “made no comments on the possibility of this scenario,” he sees China as “an honest mediator” that could broker peace between Moscow and Kiev, Orban noted.

Xi and Putin both believe talks will begin in some form by the end of the year, Orban reportedly wrote in the cables. Given the scale of Ukraine’s losses on the battlefield, he added, Putin is “surprised” that Kiev outright rejected Orban’s proposal of a “quick ceasefire” aimed at speeding up peace negotiations.

Putin still considers the peace formula rejected by Kiev in 2022 to be “relevant,” Orban continued. Under preliminary terms agreed in Istanbul that April, Ukraine would have become a neutral state with a restricted military in exchange for international security guarantees. However, the plan was torpedoed by Zelensky after then-British Prime Minister Boris Johnson convinced the Ukrainian leader to withdraw from the talks, according to multiple media reports and an admission by David Arakhamia, who headed the Ukrainian delegation.

In a speech after meeting with Orban, Putin said Russia wanted a “complete and final end of the conflict” rather than a temporary ceasefire, and that any peace deal must involve Kiev withdrawing its forces from Donbass, and from the regions of Kherson and Zaporozhye, which voted to join the Russian Federation in late 2022.


READ MORE: EU could ‘end’ Hungary’s presidency – Politico

Orban embarked on his “peace mission” to Kiev, Moscow, and Beijing immediately after Hungary assumed the rotating presidency of the European Council at the beginning of July. 

EU leaders were quick to condemn his diplomatic initiative, with Michel, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell all stating repeatedly that he had no mandate to conduct diplomacy on behalf of the bloc. According to Politico, EU officials are currently considering whether they can revoke Hungary’s European Council presidency in response.

 

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