With the skeleton of the Hiroshima atomic bomb dome as a backdrop, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida ended the G7 summit with a call for world peace and a world without nuclear weapons, after Volodymyr Zelensky appeared on the stage.
Just a few weeks ago, Kishida thought “the hurdle was too big” for the Ukrainian president to attend the meeting in person. Still, Zelensky was determined to make his first visit to Asia since the beginning of the Russian invasion, according to people involved in the preparations.
Whether by accident or design, the timing of Zelensky’s arrival in Hiroshima provided a rare opportunity to meet with — or ambush — non-G7 leaders from Brazil and India, two growing powers that have maintained ties with Moscow.
It was also the perfect place to drum up support for Ukraine’s plans to end the war, which is competing with competing proposals by China and others calling for a cease-fire without calling for Russia’s full withdrawal, according to Japanese and European officials.
“By having President Zelensky in Hiroshima participate in the discussions, we were able to deliver an urgent message that the threat of nuclear weapons cannot be used to change the status quo by force, and most importantly, that these weapons should never be used,” Kishida said.
When Zelensky joined a meeting of G7 leaders on Sunday, some speakers including French President Emmanuel Macron suggested crafting a “joint contact” to fully align the group behind the Ukraine peace plan.
Dubbed the “Hiroshima Peace Principles” by one diplomat, they would have stood in contrast to the Chinese alternative and other proposals put forward by various parties. The intent was to make it clear that the G-7 was on full swing and to impress their invited guests, not least India and Brazil.
“We are here in the City of Peace, and therefore it is a very good place to discuss the possibility of peace [in Ukraine]said a European Commission official at the summit.
But as the summit drew to a close, plans for the announcement fell through. However, its main messages were broadcast nonetheless. In his press conference, Kishida laid out four principles agreed upon by the participants, including the importance of the UN Charter and the rule of law, as well as achieving the original goal of showing solidarity with Ukraine.
“This war is not only European,” Macron told reporters ahead of Sunday’s talks. It is an opportunity to discuss, exchange and persuade the partners of this enlarged Group of Seven. . . India, Brazil, Indonesia and several other countries from the south, who sometimes did not share as much with Ukraine.
“This allows Zelensky to express himself to the powers of the world who are sometimes exposed to only one speech,” Macron added, referring to the upcoming summit of BRICS countries in Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
After his arrival on Saturday, Zelensky held bilateral talks with the G7 members as well as the leaders of India and South Korea.
“The ongoing war in Ukraine is a big problem for the whole world. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with Zelensky next to him, said, “India and I will do everything we can to find a solution.”
This is the first time the two leaders have met since Russia’s full invasion of Ukraine last February. Modi, who was seated next to Zelensky during the final session at the summit, greeted the Ukrainian leader with a warm handshake and joked with him as members of the press walked out.
Later at the summit table, Modi also called for reform of the United Nations, noting that the organization had not been able to take any effective action since Russia was a member of the Security Council, according to officials who witnessed the discussions.
A meeting with Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva proved more difficult. Zelensky eventually left Japan without speaking directly to Lula, the leader who rolled out the red carpet for Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during his visit to Brasilia.
When asked if he was disappointed that the meeting did not take place, Zelensky replied: “I think it is [Lula] He must be the frustrated one.” Macron even made a personal plea to Lula for the meeting, according to a person familiar with their conversation.
But many Brazilian officials have questioned the idea that Lula refused a meeting, saying a scheduling clash simply occurred. One of them said that Lula had agreed to hold a meeting on Sunday at the time requested by Ukraine. The Brazilian team even got the flag of Ukraine to display in the room at the Anna Crowne Plaza Hotel where the two leaders might come face to face. “We were ready,” said the Brazilian official.
Despite the differences in each country’s stance against war, Mark Brown, the Cook Islands’ premier who was also invited to the summit, said all participants were united in upholding the rule of law.
“The level of support for Ukraine, of course, varies from country to country. . . But solidarity in supporting Ukraine against the Russian invasion was a common message. We have seen conflict in Europe today. We do not want it to escalate into a nuclear conflict. Hiroshima reminded us of the price paid.”
Kory Schack, chair of foreign and defense policy at the American Enterprise Institute, said Zelensky’s presence was significant from both a domestic and international American perspective.
“It is critically important to give Ukrainians heart as they fight, to show Russia the breadth of support for Ukraine, to strengthen aid pledges and to show recalcitrant Republicans in Congress that withholding more aid will not only hurt Ukraine but American leadership,” she said.
After laying flowers in memory of at least 80,000 people who died after the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945, Zelensky said the images of the city’s devastation echoed Pakhmut and other Ukrainian cities devastated by the invasion of Moscow.
“Our dream is to win this war and achieve peace,” Zelensky said. “That is why it is important to seek solidarity over Ukraine in Hiroshima.”
Additional reporting by Michael Buller in São Paulo