Diplomats from Ukraine and Russia met in Istanbul today for another round of negotiations. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan opened the talks by calling for an immediate cease-fire and saying that “we should expect solid outcomes.”
At the end of their peace-talk meeting, there are indications of some significant progress, as both sides expressed cautious optimism.
Prior to the meeting, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had expressed his willingness to discuss some of Russia’s demand; declaring neutrality, staying out of NATO, and pledging not to develop its own nuclear arsenal.
Moscow’s top negotiator described the talks in Turkey as “constructive” and said his delegation had received a clearly outlined position on what Kiev sought to achieve. The written proposal, which includes Ukraine’s pledge to remain a neutral nation and that it will not try to obtain any weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, will be relayed to Putin, he said.
Russia agreed to meet Kiev half-way and will allow a meeting of its leaders to be held on the same day that the final version of a peace treaty is pre-approved by the two nation’s foreign ministers, Moscow’s top negotiator said on Tuesday, after a new round of talks in Istanbul.
The Russian defense ministry in what seemed like a coordinated announcement to coincide with what is happening in Turkey, announced it was drastically reducing its military operations in some parts of Ukraine, including near the capital, Kiev. The ministry cited “the talks moving into the practical dimension,” as the reason for the change.
Th pull-back announcement is coming at a time when there are multiple media reports saying that the Ukrainian Army is pushing back the Russians and reclaiming many towns around Kiev.
Medinsky explained the announcement of a de-escalation on the approaches to Kiev, among other reasons, by the fact that key decision makers are based in the capital.
Russia’s top negotiator also underlined that there is a difference between de-escalation and ceasefire.
“This is not a ceasefire, this is our desire to gradually come to a de-escalation of the conflict, at least in these areas, …. and we understand that there are people in Kiev who need to make decisions,” he said.
“We don’t want to put this city at additional risk,” Medinsky stressed.
Ukraine’s top negotiator, David Arakhamia said Kiev had sought a security guarantee from a number of nations that would work not unlike NATO’s mutual self-defense commitment.
The Ukrainian named possible guarantors to include; UK, China, the US, Turkey, France, Canada, Italy, Poland and Israel. He went further to claim that some of those countries have already given their preliminary agreement to serve in that capacity.
The proposed security pledge will not apply to the parts of Ukraine whose status remains in dispute, Arakhamia said. These include Crimea, which Russia considers its territory, and the breakaway Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, which Russia recognized as sovereign states and whose forces are taking part in ongoing hostilities.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu remarked that he hoped that the outcome of the negotiation would soon lead to a ceasefire and a sustainable political resolution of the crisis.
Nnamdi Maduakor is a Writer, Investor and Entrepreneur