Biden to skip Zelensky’s peace summit for George Clooney fundraiser

Zelensky has described his US counterpart's absence from the event as a gift to Vladimir Putin
Zelensky has described his US counterpart's absence from the event as a gift to Vladimir Putin - MICHAEL REYNOLDS/EPA-EFE/SHUTTERSTOCK
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Joe Biden will skip a peace summit organised by Volodymyr Zelensky in favour of a Hollywood fundraiser with George Clooney.

The move is likely to anger Ukraine, which has warned that the struggling summit in Switzerland “needs” Mr Biden.

The White House said that Mr Biden would be sending Kamala Harris, the vice-president, and Jake Sullivan, his national security adviser, in his place.

Mr Biden will instead attend a Democratic fundraiser in California with Mr Clooney, Julia Roberts, the comedian Jimmy Kimmel and Barack Obama, as he trails Donald Trump in recent donations for his re-election campaign.

Mr Zelensky has previously described his American counterpart’s absence from the event as a gift to Vladimir Putin, in a sign of the fraying relationship between Kyiv and Washington.

Representatives from more than 100 countries have confirmed their attendance for the summit in Switzerland, between June 15-16, that aims to unite world leaders behind the Ukrainian president’s peace plan.

The White House said Mr Biden was still committed to the plan, as it announced Mrs Harris would be leading the US delegation.

“The vice-president will underscore the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to supporting Ukraine’s effort to secure a just and lasting peace, based on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and the principles of the UN Charter,” the White House said.

Kyiv had hoped Mr Biden would attend because of his plans to be in France for the D-Day 80th anniversary celebrations and a meeting of G7 leaders in Italy in the days leading up to the event.

Last week, Mr Zelensky launched a rare attack on the US as reports emerged that his American counterpart would be skipping the event.

“I believe that the peace summit needs President Biden,” the Ukrainian president said on a visit to Brussels, Belgium.

“His absence would only be met by an applause by Putin, a personal, standing applause by Putin.”

Talking point

Mr Zelensky’s aides wrote a memo, which was distributed to officials and MPs, containing talking points that could be used to pressure public pressure on Mr Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping for not attending the summit.

The memo said: “If they don’t attend, then what is their real interest?”

The Ukrainian president also condemned China for trying to deter countries from attending the planned summit.

He said Russia was using President Xi to disrupt the event during a speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore last weekend.

“Unfortunately, regrettably, Russia, using Chinese influence on the region, using Chinese diplomats, does everything to disrupt the peace summit,” Mr Zelensky said.

“Regrettably, it is unfortunate that such a big, independent, powerful country as China is an instrument in the hands of Putin.”

China has said previously it would be hard to attend the conference if Russia was not allowed to participate.

Its foreign ministry spokeswoman, Mao Ning, said on Monday: “China’s position is open and transparent, and there is absolutely no instance of us putting pressure on other countries.

“On peace talks, China’s position is fair and just. It does not target any third country, and of course is not aimed at Switzerland’s hosting of this summit for peace.”

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