Turkiye is set to host high-level talks between Russia and Ukraine, the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has announced.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba will sit down with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov at the Antalya Diplomacy Forum on Thursday, in a meeting to be brokered by the Turkish Foreign Minister.
“We will hold this meeting in a tripartite format in Antalya on Thursday, March 10,” said Mr Çavuşoğlu on Monday.
The Turkish Foreign Minister described the tripartite meeting as an “important step” and hoped it would prove to be “a turning point” in the conflict, which has already cost an estimated 5,000 lives and left millions of Ukrainians displaced.
Ankara, which has good relations with both of its Black Sea neighbours, will be seeking to emulate its successful negotiations with Moscow and the conflicts in Libya, Syria, and the 44-day war between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh region in 2020.
Despite taking up adversarial positions by backing opposing warring factions in these conflicts, Turkiye and Russia have repeatedly found grounds for co-operation, forming agreements that have led to a reduction and in some cases, such as the Nagorno-Karabakh War, a total cessation in hostilities.
Speaking to the Ukrainian news agency UNIAN, Mr Kuleba was quoted as saying: “The meeting, planned to be held on March 10, will be held primarily thanks to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu.”
“I do not know whether (President Recep Tayyip) Erdoğan convinced (Russian President Vladimir) Putin or Lavrov, but the meeting will take place,” the Ukrainian Foreign Minister added.
President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine on 24 February after weeks of military build-up on the Ukraine-Russia border has been brutal, with aerial, ground and amphibious assaults.
The Russian attacks on Ukraine have come from the north, east and south of the country, with armed forces pounding cities including the capital Kyiv, Kharkiv and the port of Mariupol.
The invasion has caused the worst refugee crisis in Europe since World War Two, with over 2 million fleeing the country of 44 million.
Russia’s aggression has provoked outrage across the world, and led to severe economic, cultural and sporting sanctions on Moscow. It has also led to an exodus of global brands, leaving the superpower increasingly isolated.
The growing economic and political pressure on Moscow may help Turkiye to form a possible bridge, although currently both sides seem poles apart in their demands.
Russia has told Ukraine it is ready to halt military operations “in a moment” if Kyiv meets a list of conditions, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday.
Peskov outlined Moscow’s four demands in an interview Reuters. Ukraine is expected to cease military action, change its constitution to enshrine neutrality, acknowledge Crimea as Russian territory, and recognise the separatist republics of Donetsk and Lugansk as independent states.
Ukraine has yet to respond, but there appears to have been a slight softening by President Volodymyr Zelensky, who has acknowledged in an interview with David Muir of ABC News that NATO membership is not as viable for Ukraine and that the status of Donetsk and Lugansk could be discussed. However, Crimea being Russian was rejected.
The three-day Antalya Diplomacy Forum in the Turkish Mediterranean city of the same name is set to officially start on Friday, 11 March. The Russian-Ukrainian meeting will take place a day prior.
Top image, l-r: Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov