European leaders are expected to assure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy of long-term support on Thursday after U.S. President Joe Biden voiced fears that Republican infighting in Congress could hurt American policy on continuing aid to Kyiv.
Zelenskiy is expected to attend a summit in the Spanish city of Granada of the European Political Community – a forum to foster cooperation among more than 40 countries established last year following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
His attendance was not announced in advance for security reasons. Officials familiar with the plans said he would take part in the summit, giving him the chance to press for more urgently needed military aid, such as air defence systems.
Zelenskiy said in a video message on Wednesday evening: “We are preparing for intensive international activities – this week and next week should be productive for Ukraine.”
The Granada gathering also gives leaders such as French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak a chance to re-state their commitment to Ukraine after political turbulence in both the U.S. and Europe raised questions about continued support.
In the U.S., a dispute among the Republican majority in the House of Representatives has complicated budget negotiations and prompted Democrat Biden to go from confidence that an agreement will be made on Ukraine aid to openly expressing concern.
“It does worry me,” Biden said on Wednesday, before adding: “But I know there are a majority of members of the House and Senate in both parties who have said that they support funding Ukraine.”
In Slovakia, former prime minister Robert Fico’s party came first in a general election at the weekend after pledging to halt military aid to Ukraine.
In Poland, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said last month his country was no longer arming Ukraine and was focusing on rebuilding its own weapon stocks.
Some Ukrainian, European Union (EU) and NATO officials have played down these developments, saying support for Kyiv will ultimately hold steady as it is in the West’s own interests.
Scholz said on Wednesday he was “very confident” the U.S. would continue with its support for Ukraine.
The official summit agenda features topics such as transport, energy and artificial intelligence.
But meetings on the margins will focus on crises between Azerbaijan and Armenia and between Serbia and Kosovo, which have flared in recent weeks amid floundering EU efforts at mediation.
EU officials had to abandon hopes of using the summit to host a first meeting between the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia since Baku’s military operation last month to take control of the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, triggering an exodus of more than 100,000 ethnic Armenians.
Those hopes were dashed when Azerbaijan’s state-run APA news agency reported on Wednesday that President Ilham Aliyev decided not to attend. Scholz, Macron and European Council President Charles Michel would also have been present.
Many EU leaders have condemned the Azerbaijani operation. Armenia has accused Azerbaijan of ethnic cleansing – a charge denied by Baku, which said Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh were welcome to stay.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan is expected to attend the summit and European officials said they were keen to find ways to help his government cope with the immediate humanitarian crisis and provide political and economic support