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Monday, February 6, 2023

No progress in Russia, Ukraine Diplomats’ Talks in Turkey

At the first high-level discussions between Russia and Ukraine since Moscow’s invasion, the two sides failed to reach an agreement on a ceasefire and other humanitarian matters. On the sidelines of a diplomatic gathering in the Turkish resort city of Antalya, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ukrainian colleague Dmytro Kuleba met for three-way talks with Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

Kuleba expressed frustration that “it appears that there are other decision-makers for this topic in Russia,” saying “no progress” had been made on even a 24-hour truce, reports AFP.

“I want to emphasize that Ukraine has not surrendered, does not surrender, and will not surrender,” he said, adding, “I want to repeat that Ukraine has not surrendered, does not surrender, and will not surrender.”

He called the discussion “challenging,” accusing Putin of bringing “traditional notions” about Ukraine to the table. He stated that he would be willing to meet with Lavrov “again in this format if there are prospects for a substantive discussion and solutions.” 

Ukrainian and Russian delegations have also met in Belarus, but Russia’s mission is very low-ranking and does not include a minister. “Today’s discussion has established that the Russian-Ukrainian arrangement in Belarus has no alternative,” Lavrov said, appearing to place a larger emphasis on those talks.

“We are in favour of any interactions… to solve the Ukrainian situation… but the thing we realised is they must have additional value and must not damage the primary track in Belarus.” The main topic of discussion in Antalya, he claimed, was humanitarian issues raised by the Turkish hosts.

The Russian, Turkish, and Ukrainian delegations sat on opposite sides of a ‘U’ shaped table, with each minister joined by only two additional officials, according to images from the conference. There was no evidence that they had shaken hands prior to the meeting.

The negotiations with Turkey are one of several diplomatic attempts now ongoing. Israel is attempting to mediate a deal with President Vladimir Putin through direct negotiations, while French President Emmanuel Macron has been calling the Kremlin chief on a regular basis. 

“There is a very modest hope today, and we need to seize it… without being foolish,” France’s Europe Minister Clement Beaune said before of the meeting on France Inter radio. “The goal is the same: to end the war,” he added, “but we need to put a lot of pressure on Russia.”

Turkey is a long-time supporter of Ukraine, and it has supplied the country with Bayraktar drones, which Kyiv has used in the conflict. The drones are built by a company whose technical director is Erdogan’s own son-in-law.

However, it is attempting to maintain positive relations with Russia, which Turkey strongly relies on for gas imports and tourism revenues. “We are attempting to prevent this issue from turning into a tragedy,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday, adding that a lasting ceasefire was his desire.

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