Ukraine agrees to meet with Russia in Belarus
Ukraine has said it would hold talks with Russia at its border with Belarus, near the Chernobyl exclusion zone, after a phone call between President Volodymyr Zelensky and Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko.
“The politicians agreed that the Ukrainian delegation would meet the Russian one without preconditions at the Ukraine-Belarus border, near the Pripyat River,” Zelensky’s office said in a statement.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said that a Russian delegation was currently in the Belarusian city of Gomel. Zelensky previously suggested that negotiations could be held in Istanbul, Warsaw, Bratislava, Budapest or Baku.
“Warsaw, Bratislava, Budapest, Istanbul, Baku. We proposed all of them,” Zelensky said earlier on Feb. 27 in an address posted online.
Zelensky stressed that Russia has been carrying out some of its attacks on Ukraine from Belarus, therefore he is open to talks only in locations that are “not showing aggression” toward his country.
“And any other city in a country from whose territory missiles do not fly would suit us,” he stated.
Meanwhile, Turkey has attempted again to host talks for a possible ceasefire between Russia and Ukraine and held phone diplomacy with both countries at the weekend.
Turkey has been making efforts for a ceasefire between Moscow and Kyiv, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told his Ukrainian counterpart in a phone call on Feb. 26. The president offered his condolences to Ukrainian citizens killed in Russia’s attack and wished a speedy recovery to the wounded, said the presidency.
Earlier on the same day, Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavuşoğlu held a phone conversation with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, and reiterated that Turkey was ready to host any possible negotiations between Moscow and Kiev.
He reiterated Turkey’s “readiness to host negotiations that could take place between the Russian Federation and Ukraine,” said sources from the Turkish Foreign Ministry. Çavuşoğlu also asked Lavrov to end the military operation in Ukraine. The minister told Lavrov that the further escalation of military tensions would not benefit anyone.
Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and his Ukrainian counterpart, Oleksii Reznikov, also discussed over the phone the latest developments in Ukraine. The Turkish minister said Turkey would continue to do its part on humanitarian aid for the Ukrainians.
Turkey’s Presidential Spokesperson İbrahim Kalın also released a message, saying: “On the fourth day of the Ukraine war, we repeat President [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan’s call for an immediate halt of Russian attacks and the start of ceasefire negotiations.”
Fahrettin Altun, Turkey’s communications director, said that Turkey did everything to prevent the war at the diplomatic level, but calls for reform in the U.N. system were ignored.
“We have seen the dire consequences in this latest crisis. This war could have been prevented if our calls were heeded,” he added.
“We have repeatedly called for a diplomatic solution, but the war is a reality right now. The international community’s lack of unity over a number of regional and global issues has been a major problem just like it has over the Russia-Ukraine crisis,” he stated.
There is a lot of speculation and commentary about Turkey’s policy, he said.
“Everyone should be assured that Turkey’s diplomatic actions and coordination with allies will always focus on how to achieve a quick and peaceful resolution to the conflict,” Altun added.
“We will try to prevent this war’s immediate and long-term consequences,” he said.
Zelensky calls for ban on Russian warships in Turkish straits
Zelensky reiterated his country’s call to Turkey for closing the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits to the passage of Russian warships.
“I thank my friend Mr. President of [Turkey] @RTErdogan and the people of [Turkey] for their strong support. The ban on the passage of [Russian] warships to the Black Sea and significant military and humanitarian support for [Ukraine] are extremely important today. The people of [Ukraine] will never forget that!” he tweeted on Feb. 26.
Turkey had earlier offered to mediate between Moscow and Kiev even before Russia attacked Ukraine. Erdoğan earlier invited both Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin for a face-to-face summit in Istanbul.
Ankara has repeatedly called the Russian invasion of Ukraine “unacceptable.”