Ukraine seeks Canada's 'diplomatic muscle' in selling peace plan to skeptical states

OTTAWA — Canada aims to heed a new call from Ukraine to help it sell a peace plan with Russia to developing countries that have taken a neutral stance on Moscow's invasion.

Ottawa says it is gearing up for a diplomatic push on multiple continents to get the world to endorse Kyiv's vision of an end to the war through a plan that includes a full restoration of all Ukraine's territory and a war-crimes tribunal.

"Canada has the diplomatic muscle to achieve the task of gathering a broad coalition in support of the peace formula," Ukrainian Foreign Affairs Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Thursday.

He was speaking in a video presented at a closed-door breakfast meeting of foreign ambassadors, to which The Canadian Press was invited.

Kuleba is also asking Canada to increase its anti-landmine support and extend military funding beyond the next year.

"We’re talking, among other things, about putting down on paper a multi-year military support program," Kuleba said.

"And given the scale of mine contamination, we kindly ask you provide more assistance in this field."

His comments came at a meeting Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly convened to mark Ukraine's independence day, which featured Ukrainian ambassador to Canada Yuliya Kovaliv.

"It is essential that we strengthen and rebuild Ukraine to make sure that Russia will not try to invade again," Joly told foreign ambassadors gathered at Global Affairs Canada headquarters.

"We will be supporting the peace plan. We will bring also — through our diplomatic corps in all the capitals we're present in — our (weight) to bring many countries along," she said.

Joly argued Russia's invasion is to blame for sending food costs spiralling across the globe. She noted that has only got worse with Moscow pulling out of a deal to allow grain shipments from Ukraine.

"What we're talking about is how can we prevent this becoming an international conflict, and so there's a lot at stake here," she said, while demanding accountability for Russia.

The breakfast was attended by the top envoys for multiple European countries, as well as states that haven't outright condemned Russia for the invasion, such as India, South Africa and Nigeria.

The majority of the world's population lives in countries that have opted against holding Russia accountable for its invasion, for reasons ranging from trade ties with Russia, to a focus on issues outside Europe, to a desire to maintain good relations with Washington, Moscow and Beijing.

Still, G7 countries such as Canada say ending the conflict is integral to maintaining the United Nations charter, and the club of some of the world's richest countries came together last month to offer Ukraine a set of long-term security guarantees. Joly said Ottawa would reveal more in the coming days, but she seemed open to Ukraine's call for a long-term military commitment.

"We know that Russia can always leave, can rearm and reinvade. So we want to make sure that the commitment we've shown is long-lasting," she said.

"We know that arming Ukraine is the best way to get to a peaceful solution. I must say as a progressive, I never thought that arming a country was the best way to peace."

Kovaliv told her fellow ambassadors that countries stand to gain from helping to finance Ukraine's eventual rebuild, particularly if it's financed by Russian assets. She said that could stimulate jobs across the world and make up for foreign property damaged in Ukraine.

"It's for the business of many of your countries who suffered," she said. Kovaliv used the example of Ukraine updating its atomic energy sector by replacing much of its Russian imports with Canadian uranium and tools.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's office said that he spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy Thursday and supports the peace plan that Zelenskyy drafted.

In an interview from Kyiv, Toronto MP Ali Ehsassi said Ukraine is hoping Canada can get more countries on its side.

"It has obviously been very, very difficult, but they are determined as ever to make sure that they are ultimately victorious," the Liberal MP said Thursday during a personal visit to Ukraine for events involving parliamentarians from allied countries.

"The most urgent thing that they highlighted was the need for all of our countries doing a better job, in terms of making sure that the coalition of countries that are supporting Ukraine is broadened."

He said Ukranian officials are also seeking more air-defence systems similar to what's being used in Kyiv so that they can protect other cities as well as ports and electricity plants, particularly in the upcoming winter.

AlsoThursday, Joly announced the appointment of a new Canadian ambassador to Ukraine.

Natalka Cmoc speaks Ukrainian and has had postings in the country, from human rights to security programming, though her last eight years have been in unrelated roles in federal departments.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 24, 2023.

Dylan Robertson, The Canadian Press