Turkey holds key talks between Russia, Ukraine
The first high-level negotiations between Russian and Ukrainian ministers were mediated by Turkey in the southern resort of Antalya on March 10, with no progress for establishing a ceasefire, but parties confirmed their desire to continue negotiations.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said he aimed a 24-hour ceasefire and establishing a humanitarian corridor for civilian evacuations, but “no progress was accomplished on that.”
Kuleba and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov held face-to-face talks in southern Turkey on March 10 in the first high-level contact between Kiev and Moscow since Russia invaded its neighbor two weeks ago. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu also participated at the trilateral meeting which took place on the sidelines of the Antalya Diplomacy Forum.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Kuleba said Lavrov “was not in a position to give a promise on that.”
“It seems that there are other decision-makers for this matter in Russia,” Kuleba said, in an apparent reference to the Kremlin. Kuleba also repeated his vow that the country will not give in, saying, “I want to repeat that Ukraine has not surrendered, does not surrender, and will not surrender.”
He described the meeting as “difficult,” accusing his counterpart of bringing “traditional narratives” about Ukraine to the table.
The Ukrainian minister said he wanted to emerge from the meeting with an agreement on a humanitarian corridor from the besieged city of Mariupol, but “unfortunately Minister Lavrov was not in a position to commit to it.”
Kuleba said Lavrov “will correspond with respective authorities on this issue.” He added that he would be ready to meet with Lavrov “again in this format if there are prospects or a substantial discussion and for seeking solutions.”
He emphasized that Ukraine was ready for diplomacy and that they seek diplomatic decisions, however, stating, “but as long as there are none, we go with dedication, sacrificing ourselves, to defend our lands, our people, in the face of Russian aggression.”
In a separate press conference, Lavrov said he did not aim to negotiate a ceasefire in the Antalya meeting, and Moscow wanted to continue negotiations with Ukraine within the framework of the existing format in Belarus. “Today’s meeting has confirmed that the Russian-Ukrainian format in Belarus has no alternative,” he said.
Asked for the prospects for negotiations between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, Lavrov said: “Everyone is well aware that President Putin never refuses contacts. We only want these contacts to be organized not for their own sake but in order to fix some specific agreements.”
Turkey played role of facilitator: Turkish FM
Çavuşoğlu held bilateral meetings with Kuleba and Lavrov ahead of the meeting. The Turkish minister stated that Turkey had played the role of “facilitator” during the tripartite meeting in Antalya.
Speaking to reporters, Çavuşoğlu said Turkey urged for a humanitarian corridor into the Ukrainian city of Mariupol.
“In this meeting, we played a facilitating role while keeping the national position of Turkey reserved” and emphasized the humanitarian dimension of the issue, he said. Russian and Ukrainian ministers said they will discuss the issue with their authorities, he added.
“Nobody should expect miracles from this meeting. But this meeting of political level is important,” he stated.
“No one expected all problems to be resolved, but such a start had to be made,” he said, adding that both sides were positive for a possible meeting between Russian and Ukrainian presidents.