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Zelensky seeks Balkan arms and support at summit in Albania

Zelensky seeks Balkan arms and support at summit in Albania

Zelensky seeks Balkan arms and support at summit in Albania

Zelensky seeks Balkan arms and support at summit in Albania

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  • The summit coincides with Kyiv’s efforts to enhance its defensive capabilities against Russian forces.
  • He proposes organizing a Ukrainian-Balkan defense forum to nurture arms cooperation.
  • Zelensky invited all Balkan region leaders to participate in a summit of partners and allies in Switzerland this spring.
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Resident Volodymyr Zelensky attempted to drum up Balkan support for his vision of peace in Ukraine and promoted the idea of joint arms production at a two-day summit of southeastern European countries on Wednesday. The summit, held in the Albanian capital Tirana, coincides with Kyiv’s efforts to enhance its defensive capabilities to repel Russian forces amid faltering US support more than two years into Russia’s full-scale invasion.

“We are interested in co-production with you and all our partners,” In his opening remarks at the summit, Zelensky addressed top delegations from Albania, Serbia, North Macedonia, Kosovo, Bosnia, Montenegro, Croatia, and Moldova.

“About 500 defense companies are operating in Ukraine, each of them adds strength but it is not enough to win (against Russian President Vladimir) Putin. We see the problems with the supply of ammunition, which affects the situation on the battlefield.”

Zelensky proposed organizing a Ukrainian-Balkans defense forum in Kyiv or a Balkan capital to nurture arms cooperation, echoing similar initiatives conducted last year with British and US weapons companies.

Albania, North Macedonia, and Montenegro, as NATO members, have joined Western sanctions against Russia and have sent arms and equipment to Ukraine. Significant arms industries exist in parts of the Balkans, especially in Serbia and Croatia, as a legacy of former federal Yugoslavia.

Longtime Moscow ally Serbia has not imposed sanctions, and neither Belgrade nor Kyiv recognizes the independence of Kosovo, Serbia’s former predominantly Albanian southern province. Kosovo backs Ukraine and is seeking European Union and NATO membership.

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Zelensky announced that he had invited all Balkan region leaders to participate in a summit of partners and allies in Switzerland this spring. The summit would discuss his vision of peace, which entails a Russian military withdrawal from all of Ukrainian territory. This diplomatic initiative, based on what is known as Zelensky’s “peace formula,” does not involve Russia and has been dismissed by Moscow as a non-starter.

Zelensky announced that he had met Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama for talks and that the two leaders had signed an Agreement on Friendship and Cooperation between Ukraine and Albania.

“This document will contribute to the development of cooperation and strengthening of Ukraine’s position in the Balkan region,” Zelensky wrote on Telegram messenger.

His chief of staff Andriy Yermak said: “They also spoke about Ukraine’s defense needs and the possibility of joint weapons production.”

At a later news conference, Zelensky stated that every time weapons supplies to Ukraine faced delays, it represented a “gift” to Russia’s Putin. This was an apparent allusion to the months-long impasse in the US Congress over providing more assistance for Kyiv.

Scheduled to meet the leaders of Serbia, North Macedonia, Kosovo, Bosnia, and Montenegro at the summit, Zelensky, who was in Saudi Arabia for talks on Tuesday, is due to attend.

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“A pivotal moment for fostering bilateral ties, and standing in solidarity with Ukraine in its heroic fight against Russia’s aggression,” Albanian Foreign Minister Igli Hasani wrote on X shortly after Zelensky’s arrival.

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