Jan Marian: There is growing interest in Ukraine’s peace plan, but “it takes two to tango”
Participants of talks on developing a peace formula for Russia's war on Ukraine met in Davos last Sunday and President Zelensky subsequently asked Switzerland to organize a high-profile peace conference on the drawn-out conflict. I spoke to Czech Deputy Foreign Minister Jan Marian, who represented Czechia at the Davos talks, to find out how much progress was made and whether the prospects for peace have improved.
“Definitely, we have seen some progress in Davos, in terms of concrete proposals from the participants. In this regard, I would like to highlight that Czechia is co-chair of the 1st working group which deals with nuclear safety and security and we will convene an expert meeting in Prague, probably in April. We co-chair this working group together with Japan, France and Sweden. There is definitely more interest in the Ukrainian peace plan, but of course “it takes two to tango” and we don’t see any interest on the Russian side. Russia is the one who can end the war and should end the war.”
We should say that an increasing number of countries have been joining the peace effort (if we compare the Copenhagen, Jeddah, and Davos talks) but how strong is the will to support Ukraine’s conditions for peace in the present-day? Do you feel that the war in the Middle East has weakened support for Kyiv?
“Of course, the war in the Middle East takes away the attention and energy of world leaders and diplomats from this conflict, so the situation is difficult in this respect. And, of course, the opinions of participants on the peace formula may differ, but basically all of them agree that the UN Charter has to be respected and the territorial integrity of Ukraine has to be respected.
“At the same time we hear from some of the states that there should be peace talks and a search for common ground, but I am afraid this is not possible, because Russia is the one who can end the war, but at the moment we do not see any willingness on Russia’s part to do that. Quite the opposite, we see Russian barbaric attacks against Ukrainian civilian facilities.
“This is why we need to support Ukraine militarily, politically and financially –it is in our regional interest to do so, but not only that. And I think that many states of the so-called Global South understand that this is not only a regional war in Europe, but that this conflict has international aspects in terms of trade, grain exports and food security, not to mention international law and the rule-based order.”
I believe it is given that Russia will not be invited to the planned peace conference in Switzerland, but President Zelensky has made it clear he would welcome China’s presence. Indeed China’s involvement is generally seen as key to finding a path to peace. Is there any indication that China would be prepared to attend or even help the peace process, because it was absent in Davos?
“That is right. China attended one of the previous meetings and now we will need to talk to our Chinese partners to see where they stand. Obviously, China is an important partner of the EU and also an important ally of Russia, so definitely it would be great to have China on board.”
What in your view is most important in pushing the peace talks to some satisfactory conclusion and where do you draw the red line in terms of no compromises?
“I think that the red lines and the future peace talks –the terms of the talks and the timing - should be decided by Ukraine. And the role of the Western allies of Ukraine is to help Ukraine change the situation on the ground, including delivering weapons, which is in our interest because this is about regional security. Should Russia advance further it would bring enormous costs for our region, for military spending, so this is something we do because, first , it is morally right, and second, it is in our vital security interest.
"And, should there be peace talks and compromises, then let us look back at 2014 when the war started. We had the Minsk agreements and Russia never intended to implement these agreements. So, we have to live with the fact that Russia will threaten this region in the years and maybe decades to come.”
What is Czechia’s input in the peace-process? Is it communicating with other governments? How active are we behind the scenes?
“We are quite active on different levels, first in supporting Ukraine, second in supporting the peace process (as I mentioned we co-chair one of the groups and we have been among the most active participants of the peace plan) and, third, it is our role in the EU to reach out to those who might have different views on this. So my minister [Foreign Affairs Minister Jan Lipavsky] has been travelling to different regions and he will continue to do so.
“We support all the efforts of the EU in this matter and we closely coordinate with our allies in NATO, the UK, the US and other like-minded partners and we continue to support Ukraine both in military terms, financially, its civil society and also the reconstruction of Ukraine which is something that is very important. We also stand fully behind the country’s integration in the EU and its future in Europe.”
As you mentioned, Czechia has offered Ukraine assistance in the area of nuclear safety and also in the process of demining Ukraine, have those offers been accepted?
“Sure, these offers have been acknowledged by our Ukrainian counterparts. I have spoken to Mr. Yermak, the chief of the Presidential Office of Ukraine, we are in daily contact with our Ukrainian partners and friends and we have different projects of assistance. We are involved on many levels, not only the Czech Foreign Ministry, but the whole government supports Ukraine on different levels, not to mention Czech companies, Czech NGOs and the civil society.”