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Ukraine War: French Foreign Minister reacts to African peace delegation

French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna speaking at a press conference in Pretoria, South Africa.   -  
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South Africa

Following a visit by African heads of state to Ukraine and Russia last week, French Minister of Foreign Affairs has reacted to the mission, calling it "positive".

During a visit to South Africa, Catherine Colonna spoke about the African delegation.

"From our point of view, any peace effort is positive if it aims to restore the principles of the UN Charter," the Minister said during a press conference in Pretoria. "These principles have been attacked and undermined (...) by Russia’s decision to invade Ukraine. As you know, these principles are the independence of states, sovereignty, the right to self-defence and territorial integrity. These are also the principles that I think President Ramaphosa cited when he had the opportunity to speak two days ago about the mission he led with a number of other African heads of state."

A "historic" mission

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa hailed the African visit to Ukraine and Russia as "historic". The high-profile delegation met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday before flying to Russia to speak with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Sunday.

The mission gave voice to a continent that has badly suffered due to repercussions of the Ukraine conflict, particularly with rising grain prices. 

The heads of state put forward a 10-point proposal, including including de-escalation, the recognition of countries' sovereignty, unimpeded grain exports through the Black Sea and sending prisoners of war and children back to their countries of origin.

But the principles were deemed "very difficult to implement" by the Kremlin, while Zelensky ruled out talks with Moscow as long as Russian troops occupied Ukrainian territories.

"Positive reception"

On Monday, Ramaphosa said "one of the key achievements" of the mission was "the positive reception" it received from both sides, "which we found encouraging and which provides cause for optimism that the proposals will be given consideration."

Both Zelensky and Putin have agreed to further engagements, he said.

"It is our hope that as the process moves forward, a foundation can be set for a de-escalation of the conflict and negotiation," Ramaphosa said.

The delegation included the presidents of South Africa, Senegal, Comoros and Zambia, as well as top officials from Uganda, Egypt and Congo-Brazzaville.

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