KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine's foreign minister on Monday said that his government is aiming to have a peace summit by the end of February, preferably at the United Nations with Secretary-General António Guterres as a possible mediator, around the anniversary of Russia's war.
But Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told The Associated Press that Russia could only be invited to such a summit if the country faced a war crimes tribunal first.
Kuleba also said he was “absolutely satisfied” with the results of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's visit to the U.S. last week, and he revealed that the U.S. government had made a special plan to get the Patriot missile battery ready to be operational in the country in less than six months. Usually, the training takes up to a year.
Kuleba said during the interview at the Foreign Ministry that Ukraine will do whatever it can to win the war in 2023, adding that diplomacy always plays an important role.
“Every war ends in a diplomatic way," he said. “Every war ends as a result of the actions taken on the battlefield and at the negotiating table.”
Kuleba said the Ukrainian government would like to have a peace summit by the end of February.
“The United Nations could be the best venue for holding this summit, because this is not about making a favor to a certain country," he said. “This is really about bringing everyone on board.”
On Dec. 12, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that Ukraine planned to initiate a summit to implement the Ukrainian peace formula in 2023.
At the Group of 20 summit in Bali in November, Zelenskyy presented a 10-point peace formula that includes the restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, the withdrawal of Russian troops, the release of all prisoners, a tribunal for those responsible for the aggression and security guarantees for Ukraine.
Asked about whether they would invite Russia to the summit, he said that Moscow would first need to face prosecution for war crimes at an international court.
“They can only be invited to this step in this way," Kuleba said.
About Guterres' role, Kuleba said: “He has proven himself to be an efficient mediator and an efficient negotiator, and most importantly, as a man of principle and integrity. So we would welcome his active participation.”
The foreign minister again downplayed comments by Russian authorities that they are ready for talks.
"They regularly say that they are ready for negotiations, which is not true, because everything they do on the battlefield proves the opposite,” he said.
In comments released Sunday on Russian state television, Putin claimed that his country is ready for talks to end the war in Ukraine, but suggested that the Ukrainians are the ones refusing to take that step. Despite Putin's comments, Moscow's forces have kept attacking Ukraine — a sign that peace isn't imminent.
Zelenskyy's visit to the U.S. was his first foreign trip since the war started on Feb. 24. Kuleba praised Washington's efforts and underlined the significance of the visit.
"This shows how both the United States are important for Ukraine, but also how Ukraine is important for the United States,” said Kuleba, who was part of the delegation to the U.S.
Ukraine secured a new $1.8 billion military aid package, including a Patriot missile battery, during the trip.
Kuleba said that the move “opens the door for other countries to do the same.”
He said that the U.S. government developed a program for the missile battery to complete the training faster than usual “without any damage to the quality of the use of this weapon on the battlefield.”
While Kuleba didn't mention a specific time frame, he said only that it will be "very much less than six months." And he added that the training will be done “outside” Ukraine.
During Russia’s ground and air war in Ukraine, Kuleba has been second only to Zelenskyy in carrying Ukraine's message and needs to an international audience, whether through Twitter posts or meetings with friendly foreign officials.
On Monday, Ukraine called on U.N. member states to deprive Russia of its status as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council and to exclude it from the world body. Kuleba said they have long “prepared for this step to uncover the fraud and deprive Russia of its status.”
The Foreign Ministry says that Russian never went through the legal procedure for acquiring membership and taking the place of the USSR at the U.N. Security Council after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
“This is the beginning of an uphill battle, but we will fight, because nothing is impossible,” he told the AP.