МОСКВА, 10 марта 2022, Институт РУССТРАТ.

The official representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry Mariya Zakharova confirmed that the contact of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia Sergey Lavrov and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba, with the participation of Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, will be held as part of a diplomatic forum in Antalya.

At the same time, Zakharova did not by accident emphasise that the diplomats’ contact will take place in accordance with the agreement reached during a telephone conversation between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The topic of discussion is known: the Ukrainian crisis and prospects for its settlement.

At the official level, this will be the second negotiating platform after the Belarusian one, where the delegations of Russia and Ukraine have already held several rounds of negotiations on the settlement of the conflict. There, the parties managed to agree on the creation of humanitarian corridors and the cessation of hostilities, although this agreement is not implemented everywhere and not always. The negotiation process has not yet brought the expected results.

There is another feature of the situation. The meeting and negotiations of the Foreign Ministers of the two countries is a higher level than the negotiations in Belarus. From a formal point of view, the conversation should be different in subject matter and content.

Now about the positions. Moscow has already voiced them in general terms. Lavrov, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin, said that a solution to the crisis in Ukraine would be found. According to him, our «demands include taking into account Russian security interests, the demilitarisation and denazification of Ukraine and ensuring its neutral and nuclear-free status, the recognition of Russian sovereignty over Crimea and the independence of the DPR and LPR.»

As for Ukraine, its position at the official level has not been determined. On the eve of the meeting in Antalya, Kuleba made statements from which it follows that he intends to engage in «debriefing» at a meeting with Lavrov, and only in case if «the prospect is meaningful and fits into the overall framework of the negotiation process”. He also rejected the «option of Kiev’s surrender”.

But there are important nuances. The President of Ukraine, Vladimir Zelensky, in an interview with the American ABC TV channel, announced the opportunity to discuss territorial issues with Russia and said that he had «cooled down» on the issue of Ukraine’s membership in NATO. In addition, the ruling Ukrainian party «Servant of the People» published a statement with a proposal to «replace the Budapest Memorandum with security guarantees from the United States, Turkey and Ukraine’s neighbours”. In addition, Moscow is proposed to legally record the recognition of Ukrainian statehood.

It is still unknown whether these issues will be discussed at the meeting between Lavrov and Kuleba. In this regard, Ukrainian experts put forward a version according to which the Ukrainian minister will promote the idea of organising a personal meeting between Zelensky and Putin. It is difficult to predict the political prospects of this project, as well as the results of the Lavrov-Kulebа dialogue.

For a while only the following is obvious. By contacting the Ukrainian Foreign Minister in Antalya, which Ankara actively lobbied for, the Russian Foreign Minister makes it clear that he does not ignore Ankara’s mediation efforts in the Ukrainian direction. Moreover, Turkey did not join the anti-Russian sanctions, abstained from voting against it in the Council of Europe, and also took a competent position on the Montreux Convention on the status of the Straits.

In a broad sense, Ankara understands that it has little chance of becoming a real mediator between Russia and Ukraine. But from the point of view of the Turkish president, this gesture can and should demonstrate the strengthening of Ankara’s position in the world, turning it into an important actor in international relations. Moscow is not against this.

Elena Panina, Director of the RUSSTRAT Institute

Институт международных политических и экономических стратегий Русстрат

(@russtrat)

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