TURKEY is ready to host a new round of negotiations between Kiev and Moscow in Istanbul, the country’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday. He made the offer to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin during a phone call.
The peace process had appeared to be making some headway before talks broke down, last month.
“President Erdogan stated Turkey’s readiness, if agreed upon in principle by both parties, to meet with Russia, Ukraine and the United Nations in Istanbul, and to assume a role in a possible observation mechanism,” the presidency’s directorate of communications said in a statement.
Erdogan noted “the need for steps that would minimize the negative effects of the war and build trust by restoring as soon as possible the ground for peace between Russia and Ukraine,” it added.
Moscow has not yet commented on the Turkish proposal, with the Kremlin readout of the talks not mentioning it at all. According to the press release, the Ukraine part of the Putin-Erdogan phone call largely revolved around the safety of seafaring in the Black and Azov seas, as well as demining.
“Vladimir Putin underlined the readiness of the Russian side to facilitate the unhindered maritime transit of goods in coordination with Turkish partners. This also applies to the export of grain from Ukrainian ports,” it said.
Turkey has taken an explicitly neutral stance in the ongoing hostilities between Russia and Ukraine that broke out in late February. Ankara has maintained ties with both sides, abstaining from joining Western sanctions against Moscow and striving to assume the role of a mediator in the conflict.
In late March, Turkey hosted high-profile Russia-Ukraine talks that ultimately failed to yield any breakthrough, despite both parties signaling certain progress. Since then, the negotiations process has stalled, with Kiev and Moscow trading blame for the lack of progress.
Russia attacked the neighboring state following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German- and French-brokered protocols were designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.
The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.