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Switzerland will host a Ukraine peace conference in June and hopes Russia can join one day


GENEVA (AP) — Switzerland's government said Wednesday it will host a high-level international conference in June to help chart a path toward peace in Ukraine after more than two years of war, in hopes that Russia might join in the peace process one day.

The lakeside Bürgenstock resort is expected to host the June 15-16 gathering. It's expected to draw top government officials from dozens of countries, following on a plan laid out by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis in recent months.

“The first country that we spoke with, after Ukraine of course, was Russia, because a peace process cannot happen without Russia, even if it won't be there for the first meeting” Cassis told reporters Wednesday in the Swiss capital, Bern.

Swiss daily Neue Zürcher Zeitung reported Wednesday that U.S. President Joe Biden could attend. He is expected to be in Italy during that time for the G7 leaders meeting, though the White House has not said whether he would attend the Swiss conference.

The Swiss government said early talks toward arranging the conference involved the European Union and envoys from the so-called Global South, including Brazil, China, Ethiopia, India, Saudi Arabia and South Africa.

“At its meeting today, the Federal Council took note of the results to date and discussed the next steps. There is currently sufficient international support for a high-level conference to launch the peace process,” the federal government in Bern said in a statement.

It acknowledged “some unknowns” leading up to the conference, “but in view of Switzerland’s long-standing diplomatic tradition and the encouraging feedback received during the exploratory phase, it considers it its responsibility to contribute to the peace process in Ukraine.”

Much of the diplomatic uncertainty has centered on whether key Russia ally China might attend — and Cassis pressed for Beijing's support for Switzerland's ambitions during a trip to the Chinese capital last month.

China's Foreign Ministry has said that Beijing supports a conference that's accepted by both Russia and Ukraine, which isn't the case so far.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned last week that prospective negotiations to end the fighting in Ukraine could be successful only if they take Moscow’s interests into account, dismissing a planned round of peace talks as a Western ruse to rally broader international support for Kyiv.

Ukrainian and Swiss authorities have said that dozens of countries have been consulted as part of diplomatic efforts around the proposed conference.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said there will be no peace in Ukraine until Russia's goals are met.