Berliner Tageblatt - Zelensky lands in Saudi on unannounced visit: state media

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Zelensky lands in Saudi on unannounced visit: state media
Zelensky lands in Saudi on unannounced visit: state media / Photo: © SPA/AFP

Zelensky lands in Saudi on unannounced visit: state media

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky travelled to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, Saudi state media reported, his latest visit to the Gulf kingdom which has sought to stay neutral in Ukraine's war with Russia.

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Zelensky landed in the Red Sea city of Jeddah for the unannounced trip and was greeted by Saudi officials, including the national security adviser and ambassador to Kyiv, the official Saudi Press Agency said.

The Saudi foreign ministry posted pictures on X of Zelensky meeting Saudi de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, though details of their discussion were not immediately available.

Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest crude exporter, works closely with Moscow on oil policy and has touted its ties to both Moscow and Kyiv since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, positioning itself as a possible mediator in the war.

Zelensky has travelled the world in recent weeks to rally support and attendance for a peace summit scheduled to take place in Switzerland at the weekend.

He has visited traditional allies in the European Union as well as countries in the Middle East and Asia with closer relations with Russia.

Earlier this month, he visited Singapore, the Philippines and Qatar.

Representatives from about 90 countries are expected to gather in Switzerland to discuss Kyiv's plan to end the war.

Zelensky has convinced many officials to attend after in-person visits.

Saudi Arabia has not yet confirmed whether it will take part in the summit, diplomats in the Gulf region told AFP last week.

It will take place as Russia has made some gains on the battlefield in eastern Ukraine, with Kyiv's forces struggling with a lack of troops and ammunition.

- 'Multi-polar' diplomacy -

Zelensky has called on Ukraine's allies to step up air defence deliveries for Kyiv.

As Zelensky arrived in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, Kyiv said a Russian strike on his hometown of Kryvyi Rig killed eight people and wounded two dozen more.

In September 2022, Riyadh played an unexpected role in brokering the release of foreign fighters detained in Ukraine, including two from the United States and five from Britain.

A Saudi official said in March 2023 that Riyadh remained open to contributing to mediation to end the conflict, especially "on important minor issues that may help cumulatively in the end to have a political solution of the whole issue".

Zelensky then attended an Arab League summit in May 2023 in Jeddah where he accused some leaders of turning "a blind eye" to the horrors of Russia's invasion.

In August last year, Saudi Arabia hosted talks on the war that drew representatives of more than 40 countries, excluding Russia.

Saudi officials said at the time that the meeting, which included officials from China and Brazil, demonstrated the benefits of its "multi-polar" approach to foreign policy.

Zelensky most recently visited Saudi Arabia in February, when he held talks Prince Mohammed to promote his peace plan and discuss a potential exchange of prisoners of war.

Saudi Arabia has pledged hundreds of millions of dollars in relief to Ukraine, including allocations for Ukrainian refugees who fled to neighbouring countries.

M.Ouellet--BTB