US Vice President Leaves Zelensky’s Peace Summit Early

After Joe Biden skipped the event, Kamala Harris spent only a few hours in Switzerland in his stead

US Vice President Kamala Harris left Ukrainian leader Vladimir Zelensky’s Swiss ‘peace conference’ after only a few hours on Saturday, returning to Washington before the summit’s main working day began.

Harris arrived at the conference on Saturday afternoon and met with Zelensky, before announcing that the US would give Ukraine an additional $1.5 billion in infrastructure and humanitarian aid. After a speech in which she promised “to work toward a just and lasting peace,” Harris departed for Washington on Saturday evening, the White House said.

Harris left the conference before world leaders and dignitaries sat down on Sunday to hammer out a declaration in support of Zelensky. According to a copy of the text seen by Reuters, the final communique blames the Ukraine conflict on Russia, demands that Moscow allow Kiev to access Black Sea ports on Russian territory, and orders Russia to hand over ethnic Russian children evacuated from the Donbass region at the beginning of the conflict.

The wording of the communique caused friction, with a dozen countries refusing to sign the document. Among those who withheld their signature were Brazil, India, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

Prior to the summit, Brazilian presidential adviser Celso Amorim and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi released a joint letter explaining that they would prefer a conference “held at a proper time that is recognized by both Russia and Ukraine, with equal participation of all parties as well as fair discussion of all peace plans.”

China did not send a delegation to the conference.

US President Joe Biden also skipped the meeting, despite attending the G7 summit in neighboring Italy on Friday. Biden opted to fly to Los Angeles instead, to attend a fundraising event with Hollywood celebrities George Clooney and Julia Roberts.

Russia was not invited to the summit, and has “nothing to tell” its participants, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Saturday. “The issue of peace in Ukraine is not being discussed in Switzerland. Humanitarian and quasi-humanitarian issues are being discussed,” he added.

In a speech on Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that meaningful peace talks can begin once Ukraine withdraws its forces from the new Russian regions of Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson, and Zaporozhye and renounces its ambitions of joining NATO. Putin’s conditions were rejected by Zelensky, with the Ukrainian leader stating that Kiev “does not trust” the Russian president’s “ultimatum.”