Some 50 European Leaders ae to Stress Their Support for Ukraine at a Meeting in Spain

GRANADA, Spain (AP) -- Some 50 European leaders used a summit in southern Spain's Granada on Thursday to stress they stand by Ukraine at a time when Western resolve appears somewhat weakened. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that maintaining such unity was now "the main challenge."

Zelenskyy flew in early in the morning to the meeting of the European Political Community forum, which was formed in the wake of Russia's February 2022 invasion of Ukraine that drastically reset the continent's political agenda and fundamentally undermined long-held beliefs on peace and stability on the continent.

Despite the political, economic and military support, the desperate struggle to rid Ukraine territory of invading Russian has ground to a stalemate. Meanwhile, the once-steadfast opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin has shown cracks because of internal strife both within the United States and the European Union.

"The main challenge that we have that is to save unity in Europe," Zelenskyy said. Last weekend's election in Slovakia, where pro-Russia candidate Robert Fico was the big winner, and Hungary's continued recalcitrance to fully back Ukraine have cast increasing shadows on Europe's commitment. That counts especially for the European Union where many decisions on Ukraine need unanimity among the 27 members.

Support from Europe has become all the more important after the U.S. Congress hastily sent President Joe Biden legislation over the weekend that kept the federal government funded but left off billions in funding for Ukraine's war effort that the White House had vigorously backed.

Biden called other world powers Tuesday to coordinate on Ukraine in a deliberate show of U.S. support at a time when the future of its aid is questioned by an important faction of Republicans who want to cut off money to Kyiv.

Zelenskyy said, however, that during a visit to Washington, he had been assured "100% support in the White House and also bipartisan support in Congress. I think it's important."

EU leaders also felt U.S. issues could be overcome. "I am very confident of support for Ukraine from the United States. What the United States is working on is the timing," said EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

Even if the EU promised to continue its support for Kyiv, it could never replace Washington if funds were to dry up there, EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said.

"Everybody that doesn't want Putin winning this war is to look for ways for the U.S. to retake this issue and continue supporting Ukraine," Borrell said. "Certainly we can do more. But the U.S. is something irreplaceable for the support of Ukraine."

Zelenskyy insisted that Putin's attempts to divide the West would not cease. "Russia will attack by information, disinformation, by fakes etc.," he said.

The leaders in Granada are keen to stress that they are united behind Ukraine.

"When it comes to facing down the threat from Putin," said British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, "there is strength in unity."

The EPC is an informal gathering so formal decisions are off the table, but the leaders want to use the format to push for better relations and seek to settle disputes, whether lingering or live.

That makes it especially disappointing that President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan pulled out of the gathering at the last moment, when expectations had risen that a possible summit-within-the summit would unite key players and go-betweens in his country's crisis with neighboring Armenia.

The humanitarian tragedy of some 100,000 Armenians fleeing Nagorno-Karabakh, a part of Azerbaijan with a predominantly Armenian population, followed a brutal military operation last month and touched a raw nerve in Europe.

Instead, officials said that many leaders will be huddling with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to show backing for his government as it grapples with the humanitarian plight, and to try to lure Yerevan away from Moscow's diplomatic grasp.

The forum of the European Political Community will still be a rare occasion where leaders of rival nations such as Serbia and Kosovo will be gathered in one plenary room. Any chance of rapprochement, though, is dim, since Kosovo will not be represented by Prime Minister Albin Kurti but by its president, Vjosa Osmani, whose role is largely ceremonial.

A myriad of other European issues are likely to come up during a day of talks in Spain, capped with a royal dinner and tour at the Moorish Alhambra Palace.

The famed hilltop architectural gem with its soothing ripples of water and the gentle splash from its fountains has traditionally been known to calm nerves. In Europe's halls of politics these days, serenity is hard to come by.