Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has embarked on an unexpected visit to Saudi Arabia, where the Arab League is hosting its annual summit. In a tweet on Friday, President Zelenskyy expressed his excitement, stating that he is “Beginning my first-ever visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to enhance bilateral relations and Ukraine’s ties with the Arab world.”
During his visit, President Zelenskyy intends to discuss crucial matters such as “political prisoners in Crimea and temporarily occupied territories, the return of our people, peace formula, and energy cooperation.” He emphasized that Saudi Arabia plays a significant role, and Ukraine is prepared to elevate their cooperation to new heights.
This surprise trip marks a departure from President Zelenskyy’s previous visits, which have primarily been to staunch allies such as European Union states, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Additionally, he is scheduled to travel to Japan over the weekend to attend the G7 meeting.
Ukraine’s decision to seek support among countries that have refrained from publicly condemning Russia’s actions demonstrates a shift in strategy. Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, have largely maintained a neutral stance towards Russia’s war on Ukraine, with many maintaining close ties to Moscow.
Notably, Saudi Arabia has maintained favorable relations with Russia and has cooperated on oil production cuts through OPEC+, the Saudi-led oil producers’ alliance. Furthermore, the Saudis have offered to mediate between Ukraine and Russia, following a prisoner exchange deal they brokered last year.
Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia pledged $400 million in aid to Ukraine, and it has consistently voted in favor of United Nations resolutions calling on Russia to cease its invasion and refrain from annexing Ukrainian territory.
President Zelenskyy’s visit to Saudi Arabia underscores Ukraine’s diplomatic efforts to forge new alliances and garner support from influential nations in the face of ongoing tensions with Russia. The outcome of his discussions and the subsequent actions taken by both countries will be closely watched by international observers.