Zelensky makes mild Israel criticism as Saudi Arabia 'boycotts' Ukraine conference

Zelensky makes mild Israel criticism as Saudi Arabia 'boycotts' Ukraine conference
Ukraine's President Zelensky has been viewed as a supporter of Israel throughout the Gaza war, although there has been a change in his discourse.
3 min read
03 June, 2024
Zelensky has appealed to Israel for military support throughout the war [Getty]

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky has made a veiled criticism of Israel's war on Gaza, calling on Israel to respect humanitarian law as the death toll rises to more than 36,479 Palestinians killed. 

Zelensky has been a vocal supporter of Israel during his presidency and since Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 has repeatedly called on it to provide it with material support and reminded Tel Aviv of Moscow's 'alliance' with Iran.

Speaking at the Shangri-La Dialogue conference in Singapore this weekend, Zelensky appeared to change his discourse on Israel's war on Gaza.

"Ukraine said that if Hamas terrorists attacked civilians on the first day of their attack on Israel, then Israel has the right to defend itself," Zelensky said, according to The Kyiv Independent.

"And after that, when Israel was in Gaza and there was a humanitarian crisis, Ukraine said: Firstly, we are ready to provide humanitarian aid to Gaza.

"Secondly, we must respect international law. Thirdly, Ukraine recognises two states, both Israel and Palestine and will do everything it can to convince Israel to stop, to end this conflict and prevent the suffering of civilians."

Zelensky also said Ukraine was ready to support Gaza with humanitarian aid and stressed Kyiv's recognition of Palestine as a state.

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The comments appear to mark a change in the Ukrainian president's public posturing about the war on Gaza, where hospitals, homes, and refugee camps have been bombed.

Zelemsky has compared Hamas's 7 October attacks in southern Israel to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and referred to Hamas as "terrorists".

Since the 2022 invasion, the Ukrainian president has repeatedly called on Israel to end its "neutrality" regarding the Ukraine war and firmly back it against Russia.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has shared close relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and taken a less critical line on Moscow's invasion of Ukraine than Western countries.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia will stay away from a peace conference for Ukraine in Switzerland due to the absence of Russian delegates, Moscow media has claimed.

The Swiss government had invited 160 delegates to a conference on Ukraine in Burgenstock but Russian officials were not included, leading Riyadh to step back, according to TASS

Zelensky was reportedly due to visit Saudi Arabia earlier this month to shore up Riyadh's support but this has been cancelled, according to the same report. The New Arab could not verify the claims.

Saudi Arabia has played a role in negotiations in the Ukraine war, having good relations with both sides. In August 2023 it held a summit for Ukraine hoping to find common ground and played a role in a hostage exchange between Kyiv and Moscow.