(Bloomberg) -- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy failed to win over a number of key nations from the Global South at a two-day summit in Switzerland, casting a shadow over his bid to broaden support in the war against Russia’s invasion. 

India, Indonesia, South Africa and Saudi Arabia were among nations that didn’t sign on to a final statement drawn up at the June 15-16 meeting. Of more than 100 countries and organizations that participated, only 83 signed the final communique, according to the Swiss hosts. A previous list contained 84 signatories. 

China avoided the meeting and Brazil, which sent only an observer, also didn’t sign, rounding out the so-called BRICS nations that Ukrainian officials had identified as essential to recruit as allies in their bid to isolate Russia, which was excluded from the gathering. 

The holdouts among global leaders laid bare Ukraine’s challenge in securing support from nations outside the Western fold, who either want to maintain ties to Moscow or view the war differently. The conference showed that as Kyiv struggles to hold back Russia’s advance on the battlefield, its diplomatic push is also faltering in efforts gain traction on the global stage. 

Zelenskiy said he expected some non-signatories to sign after consultations with governments — and portrayed the number of delegates who signed “immediately” as a breakthrough. 

“That is a very serious result — I believe that is a great success,” Zelenskiy told reporters after the meeting. 

Summit No-Shows, Latecomers

But the summit showed that progress, if there is any, will be a slow crawl. The communique had already been narrowed to focus on three issues: commitments on nuclear and food safety and the return of abducted children and prisoners. But it omitted language, which had been widely expected, on holding a follow-up meeting.  

And while there was consensus among delegates that Russia must eventually be brought to the negotiating table, a direct reference to moving forward with confidence-building steps to engage with Moscow was also removed. 

Zelenskiy had made a particular push last week to engage Saudi Arabia, culminating in the attendance of Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud. But the official warned Saturday that Kyiv must be prepared for “difficult compromise” to put an end to the conflict, a view held broadly among potential allies being courted. 

Only options that are “acceptable to both parties” can lead to peace, India’s Shin Pavan Kapoor, a state secretary in the foreign ministry, said to explain his country’s decision to not sign the final declaration.

Still, it was one of the largest gathering of world leaders — 57 heads of state and government — to discuss resolving the war directly. President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana, a signatory, said that Russia’s war had debilitating effects in Africa, including triggering inflation and “skyrocketing” food prices.

“We have a vested interested in participating in efforts to find the means for the resolution of this conflict,” he told reporters after the summit.

But even Western leaders raised questions about the urgency of the Swiss initiative. President Joe Biden skipped it, sending instead Vice President Kamala Harris, who left after the first day. French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, both confronting political upheaval at home, also left early. 

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni was absent for the first plenary session, only arriving early Sunday. 

Zelenskiy was careful not to criticize the nations to which he’s making overtures, but he did signal that he felt Beijing and Brasilia weren’t conforming with the majority of international partners. 

“As soon as Brazil and China join the principles which have united all of us civilized countries today, we will be happy to hear their thoughts — even if they sometimes don’t match the majority of the world,” Zelenskiy said. 

--With assistance from Arne Delfs and Zoe Schneeweiss.

(Updates with India’s reaction in tenth paragraph.)

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.