May 22, 2024

Erdogan pitches himself as go-between, Zelenskyy indicates Russia would not be invited to the first meeting.

Turkey is ready to host a summit between Ukraine and Russia to end the war, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said after talks with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Istanbul.

Speaking after their meeting on Friday, Erdogan, who has balanced relations with Moscow and Kyiv throughout the two-year war, spoke of “opportunities that Turkey can provide with its stance”.

“While we continue our solidarity with Ukraine, we will continue our work to end the war with a just peace on the basis of negotiations,” he said.

Zelenskyy said the talks had been “sincere and fruitful”, though he refrained from alluding to the mooted peace summit in a statement released on X after the meeting.

However, the Ukrainian leader, who is on a mission to obtain more munitions and weaponry from allies to halt his foe’s advance on the eastern front, was cited by the Reuters news agency as saying that Russia would not be invited to the first meeting of the summit, due to be held in Switzerland.

Zelenskyy also thanked Erdogan for his efforts in negotiating the release of Ukrainian prisoners “held in Russian prisons and camps under extremely harsh and inhumane conditions”.

Erdogan, who reiterated Turkey’s support for Ukraine’s “territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence”, said he and Zelenskyy had discussed port security, safety in the Black Sea, prisoner exchanges and food security.

Turkey’s strategic location on the Black Sea and its control of the Bosphorus Strait gives it a unique military, political and economic role in the conflict.

Shortly after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Turkey hosted failed ceasefire talks between Kyiv and Moscow.

“Both sides have now reached the limit of what they can achieve through war,” Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan said this month.

“We think it’s time to start a dialogue towards a ceasefire.”

In July 2022, Ankara with the United Nations brokered the Black Sea Grain deal, the most significant diplomatic agreement so far reached between Kyiv and Moscow. But Moscow ditched the initiative a year later, complaining that the terms were unfair.

Kyiv has since used an alternative shipping route hugging the coastline to avoid contested international waters.

The Erdogan-Zelenskyy meeting comes a week after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met his Turkish counterpart Fidan at a diplomatic forum in Antalya.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was set to visit Turkey last month, but postponed the trip, according to Turkish and Russian media citing diplomatic sources. The Kremlin said it is rescheduling the visit.

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