Saudi Arabia Hosts Peace Talks in Jeddah
On August 5 the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia hosted peace talks on Ukraine in Jeddah, joining countries like China, Israel, and Turkey on the list of would-be negotiators in the Russo-Ukrainian War. Representatives from over 30 countries (with the notable exception of Russia) gathered on the Red Sea shore – without, however, making significant progress.
Rather than the eventual steps toward a truce or ceasefire, what is interesting is the change in Riyadh’s position on the conflict. This newfound eagerness to play a mediating role is part of Saudi Arabia’s current efforts to promote its image as both a reliable and a peace-loving country, in the Middle East and around the world. To have its status recognized on a wider stage would help legitimize Saudi regional ambitions: with Iran still isolated, Israel going through internal difficulties, and Turkey trying to fix its troubled economy, Riyadh is trying to seize the moment for primacy in the Middle East. The Jeddah talks on Ukraine can be viewed as a sort of an upgrade after recent Saudi diplomacy vis-à-vis Syria and Sudan. Notably, even if it is still heavily embroiled in Yemen fighting the pro-Iran Houthis, Riyadh accepted China as mediator in its relationship with Tehran.
After having gotten closer to the Chinese, Riyadh could not turn its back to the US. Recently, Washington has been sending signals to Ukraine of its desire for a ceasefire to be reached in the upcoming months. As the US cannot ask openly Ukraine to speed up the end of the war, it is obliged to use intermediate ways. Saudi Arabia, for which the US remains the primary ally, could be one of these channels, especially when hosting a summit as the one in Jeddah (in other formats, for example that of NATO, this kind of message is definitively harder to express). The presence of representatives from countries of what was once called “the Third World” could help present Washington’s views as shared by other capitals.
Therefore, the Jeddah talks, at which were present many of the countries that try to follow a neutral line on Ukraine, could be interpreted as a signal to Ukraine that the support for Kyiv’s cause is limited to Europe and North America mainly. In the same time, the presence of the Global South countries also shows that they do not adopt without questioning the Russian position and that they can also converge towards the US one. That is something that every pretender for a mediating role in the conflict should bear in mind.
Countries Represented in Jeddah Talks
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