For the first time in two weeks, Ukrainians and Russians are physically together at the negotiating table. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan mediates and tries to force a ceasefire. But the two parties involved are digging their heels in the sand.
The Dolmabahçe Palace in Istanbul is the scene of another attempt to end the war in Ukraine. This is where the Turkish Prime Minister’s office is located.
The talks started around 9:30 a.m. The Turkish mediators are said to have spoken to the two delegations in advance – separately. The delegations from Ukraine and Russia have arrived in recent hours and consist mainly of presidential advisers. The Ukrainian defence minister is also there, just like the Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, who has been meditating for a while at the request of Ukraine.
Turkish President Erdogan has acted as a mediator. He phoned Ukrainian President Zelensky and Russian President Putin last night and said afterwards that things were moving positively. Yet the positions of the two countries are far apart.
Kyiv wants a withdrawal of Russian troops and security guarantees. At the same time, Russia demands that Ukraine renounce its military alliance with NATO, recognize the eastern separatist regions as independent territories and recognize Crimea, the peninsula annexed in 2014, as part of Russia.
After the previous negotiations, Ukrainian President Zelensky has said he is ready to be a neutral country. But he wants a referendum on this in his own country, and he wants the Russian troops to withdraw first. But conversely, Ukraine does not want to give in to Russia’s territorial demands.
“We do not trade in people, territory or sovereignty,” Ukraine’s foreign minister said beforehand. In that regard, observers say that Russia may first want to gain more ground in order to have a better negotiating position.