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Foreign ministers of Ukraine and Russian will meet for the first time since invasion

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu welcomes his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov during a meeting in Antalya, Turkey March 10, 2022. Russian Foreign Ministry/Handout via REUTERS

Foreign ministers from Russia and Ukraine will meet in Turkey on Thursday for the first high-level discussions between the two nations since Moscow invaded its neighbour, with Ankara hoping for a breakthrough.

The news: On the margins of a diplomacy summit in Turkey’s southern province of Antalya, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has downplayed hopes for a ceasefire agreement or any outcomes from his meeting with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

  • More than 2 million people have been displaced as a result of Russia’s invasion, according to the United Nations, in the fastest humanitarian crisis in Europe since World War II.
  • After weeks of mediation efforts by foreign powers, NATO member Turkey has offered to mediate between the parties and will welcome their top two ambassadors.
  • Kuleba urged Lavrov to approach the talks “in good faith, not from a propagandistic perspective.”
  • Moscow has stated that it is willing to talk to Ukraine, but that all of its conditions, including that Kyiv take a neutral stance and abandon its ambitions to join NATO, must be met in order for the assault to halt.
  • Prior to this, delegates from the two nations held three rounds of discussions, two in Belarus and one in Ukraine. Despite some encouraging indicators on humanitarian issues, those talks have had little effect.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meets with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu in Antalya, Turkey March 10, 2022. Turkish Foreign Ministry/Handout via REUTERS

What’s going on: Moscow describes its assault as a “special military operation” aimed at disarming Ukraine and removing “neo-Nazi” leaders. Kyiv and its Western allies dismiss this as a spurious justification for an unprovoked attack on a 44-million-strong democratic country.

  • In the Black Sea, Turkey shares a maritime border with both Russia and Ukraine, with which it has strong ties. Ankara has condemned Russia’s invasion and urged for an immediate ceasefire, although it opposes sanctions against Moscow.
  • Turkey has provided drones to Ukraine, angering Moscow, while building tight connections with Russia on energy, defence, and trade, and depending largely on Russian visitors. It also opposes Russia’s policy in Syria and Libya, as well as the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014.
  • Both Lavrov and Kuleba had requested that Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu attend the talks on Thursday, and he hoped the meeting would be a “turning point.”
  • Turkey and Israel stepped up their mediation efforts over the weekend. In a phone call on Sunday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan encouraged Russian President Vladimir Putin to proclaim a truce.
  • Naftali Bennett, the Israeli prime minister, met with Putin in Moscow over the weekend and later spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
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