New Delhi: The Saudi Arabia-hosted talks on the conflict in Ukraine started on Saturday in Jeddah with many countries, including India, being represented by their National Security Advisers.

“Hosting this meeting marks a continuation of humanitarian initiatives and efforts exerted by Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman and his communication with Russian and Ukrainian leadership since the early days of the crises, expressing the Kingdom’s readiness to use its good offices to contribute to reaching a solution,” said the only official word on the meeting by the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) which has billed the conclave as “Meeting for NSAs of various brotherly and friendly countries on the Ukraine crisis”.

Senior officials from about 40 countries, including the US, China, India, Brazil and South Africa were trying to carve a path towards an agreement on key principles for a peaceful end to Russia’s war in Ukraine. Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy wants thetalks to lead to a peace summit of global leaders which he has hinted might take place in autumn. The only major multilateral meeting around that time will be the G20 summit in India.

NSA Ajit Doval had arrived in Jeddah for the talks, said the Indian embassy in Riyadh. Like India, Saudi Arabia is also pursuing a multi-vector foreign policy that entails good ties with the US, China, Russia, Turkey and India.

Analysts see this meeting as the second diplomatic push by the West to build support beyond the core backers by involving Global South countries who have not condemned Russia nor wholeheartedly participate in the sanctions. The first meeting was held on June 24 in Copenhagen which was not attended by China.

The West’s points-man for the talks and head of Zelenskyy’s office Andriy Yermak said the talks will be difficult.

Russia is not attending the talks but the Saudi MoFA statement has suggested that it is in the loop and not pointedly excluded as was being made out earlier.

China did not attend the Copenhagen meeting but has sent its Special Envoy for Eurasian Affairs Li Hui. In March, China had brokered a resumption of diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and its arch regional foe Iran.

Earlier this week, Zelenskyy had recalled his ambassadors and told them to use every tool at their disposal to convince other nations that only Russia’s defeat can bring about lasting peace in the region.

On July 29, The Wall Street Journal had reported on the plans for the meeting.

India’s increasing engagements with Ukraine

October 2022: PM Modi held telephonic conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy
December 2022: NSA Ajit Doval and key Zelenskyy aide Andriy Yermak speak on phone
December 2022: Zelenskyy holds telephonic conversation with PM Modi
April 2023: Ukraine Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Emine Dzhaparova arrives to hold first face-to-face talks between Foreign Offices since conflict
May 2023: PM Modi meets Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on sidelines of G7 summit in Japan
June 2023: Yermak makes phone call with NSA Doval
June 2023: MEA Secretary Sanjay Verma attends conclave in Denmark on Ukraine conflict
July 2023: MEA Secretary Sanjay Verma visits Kyiv for Foreign Office consultations