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Albanese to boycott Ukraine peace summit to host China

 Latika M Bourke
The Nightly
3 Min Read
The Nightly understands Anthony Albanese will be a no-show to the Ukraine peace summit,  potentially so he can host China’s Premier Li Qiang instead. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch) NO ARCHIVING
The Nightly understands Anthony Albanese will be a no-show to the Ukraine peace summit, potentially so he can host China’s Premier Li Qiang instead. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch) NO ARCHIVING Credit: LUKAS COCH/AAPIMAGE

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will snub next month’s Ukraine peace summit in Switzerland, the first of its kind to assemble world leaders to help write a pathway for peace and end the war.

Mr Albanese has been invited to attend the Global Peace Summit of Ukraine being co-hosted by Ukraine and the Swiss government in Burgenstock between June 15 and 16.

Ukraine’s President Volodymr Zelensky asked the neutral Swiss state to host the gathering earlier this year. More than 160 world leaders have been invited.

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Australia’s invitation was again extended to Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles in person when he visited the Ukrainian city of Lviv last month.

Similar summits have been held in Copenhagen, Jeddah, Malta and Davos in the past but they have been held at the foreign policy and national security adviser level.

This is the first to involve heads of government, signalling the elevated status of the gathering and the desire to negotiate a pathway to ending the war.

But The Nightly understands the PM will be a no-show, potentially so he can host China’s Premier Li Qiang instead. Dates are still being confirmed but multiple sources confirmed a visit by the Chinese premier was being arranged for mid-June.

While Australia will be represented at the Swiss summit for Ukraine, by whom is still being decided.

Mr Albanese’s snub is in contrast to other world leaders who have begun RSVPing. They include Canada’s Justin Trudeau, with whom Australia has aligned many of its positions on Israel, Ireland’s Taoiseach and Japan’s Fumio Kishida, a Quad partner.

In a call with the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, Mr Zelensky stressed the desire for the involvement of ‘as many countries as possible.’

‘All the continents, all the countries’ views should be represented at the Peace Summit,” Mr Zelensky said in a statement.

The opposition’s foreign spokesman Simon Birmingham said the Albanese Government had overlooked too many opportunities to support Ukraine’s defence against Russia’s invasion.

“They should not overlook this opportunity to strongly back efforts towards a just peace,” he said.

“Seniority matters in summits like these and it’s a no-brainer that Australia should have senior representation so that our voice is heard.

“Given the way Russia’s war against Ukraine is being supported and interpreted by other autocracies, Australia has much at stake in supporting Ukraine and the upholding of international laws that protect sovereignty.”

Ukraine has been fighting Vladimir Putin’s full-scale invasion since Feburary 2022 and Australia has said it will ‘stand with Ukraine for the long term’ and ‘until Ukraine is able to resolve this war on its terms.’

The Coalition has blasted the government for not doing enough to support Ukraine both in dollar terms and diplomatically.

The government says Australia’s total contributions amount to more than $1 billion.

But the Kiel Institute’s tracker which monitors contributions to Ukraine made by 42 governments and EU institutions shows Australia has slipped to 21st position with tiny countries like Slovakia, Lithuania, Switzerland and even pro-Russian Austria contributing more.

And unlike Australia’s allies who restored their diplomatic missions in the months after the full-scale invasion of February 2022, the embassy in Kyiv remains closed.

One summit the Prime minister is less likely to boycott is the NATO gathering in Washington in July.

It is the third time running Australia has been invited to NATO’s annual summit and a sign of how seriously the Europeans and Americans view the threat from China.

A NATO official told The Nightly: “The Heads of State of Government from Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea will be invited to the next Summit of Allied leaders in Washington DC this July.”

The grouping of the four Indo-Pacific partner countries is known within NATO as the Asia-Pacific 4 or AP4.

His office would not confirm his attendance but said any travel would be announced closer to the date.

Last year Albanese was forced to reverse his decision to not attend the Nato summit in Lithuania after a backlash. He eventually attended and donated 30 more Bushmaster armoured vehicles to Zelensky on behalf of Australia.

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