Ukraine’s presidential office says Ukrainian and Russian officials held online peace talks Friday, but gave no further details. The meeting follows Tuesday’s face-to-face peace talks in Istanbul, which both Turkish and Ukrainian officials described as positive.
In a television interview Thursday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, while acknowledging that some Russian commitments to deescalate in Ukraine remain unfulfilled, said efforts continue to build on Tuesday’s meeting.
Cavusoglu said in the second stage, the necessary work is being carried out to bring together the foreign ministers. He said he texted Thursday with both Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmtryo Kuleba and Russia Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and conveyed Turkey’s views on this issue to them, saying mediators will do whatever they can to make this happen.
Last month, Turkey hosted a meeting between Kuleba and Lavrov, which ended in deadlock. But Lavrov, speaking Friday during a visit to India, said peace talks needed to continue and that they were preparing a reply to Ukrainian proposals made at Tuesday’s Istanbul meeting.
Lavrov, appearing to strike a positive note, said Kyiv had shown “much more understanding” of the situation in Crimea and Donbas, as well as demands for Ukraine’s neutrality. Moscow annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region by force and is calling for international recognition of the breakaway republic’s Donbas and Luhansk regions.
But Kyiv insists it remains committed to retaining the country’s territorial integrity. Cavusoglu has said there were convergences in those critical areas of dispute.
Russian expert Samuel Bendett, of the Center for Naval Analyses International Affairs Group, said Turkey is now playing an increasingly important role in peace efforts.
“Turkey is a significant factor here because the Russian president is talking to the Turkish president, the Ukrainian president is talking to the Turkish president, so Turkey is involved and in the know,” he said. “So potentially, it could be an important mediator if both sides feel it’s time for Turkey to step up into that role.”
Kyiv is looking to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to use his influence on his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, to arrange a meeting with Ukraine’s president.
Kuleba reiterated his call Friday for a presidential summit. For now, however, Moscow insists such a meeting is only possible once there are tangible proposals to resolve the conflict.
Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich also appears to be playing a growing role in peace efforts, attending Tuesday’s Istanbul talks, with Cavusoglu saying Abramovich is making sincere efforts to end the war.