| 2 March 2024, Saturday |

Top Russian, Ukrainian diplomats to meet Thursday in Turkey

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Ukrainian colleague Dmytro Kuleba have agreed to meet on Thursday at a symposium in southern Turkey, the first prospective meeting between the two senior diplomats since Russia started its invasion of Ukraine.

Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, made the announcement on Monday and said he will attend the summit in the resort city of Antalya. The idea has been verified by Russia’s foreign ministry.

NATO member Turkey, which shares a Black Sea maritime border with Russia and Ukraine, has offered to intervene between the parties. Ankara maintains solid connections with both Moscow and Kiev, and has condemned Russia’s incursion while opposing sanctions against Moscow.

Cavusoglu stated that during a phone discussion with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan reiterated Turkey’s invitation to host the summit, which Lavrov subsequently accepted.

“We especially hope that this meeting is a watershed moment and…an key step toward peace and stability,” he said, adding that both ministers had invited him to participate in the meetings.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova confirmed the meeting on Telegram.

Kuleba had said on Saturday he was open to talks with Lavrov but only if they were “meaningful”.

Russia announced new “humanitarian corridors” on Monday to transport Ukrainians trapped under its bombardment – to Russia itself and its ally Belarus, a move immediately denounced by Kyiv as an immoral stunt.

The announcement came after two days of failed ceasefires to let civilians flee the besieged city of Mariupol, where hundreds of thousands of people are trapped without food and water, under relentless bombardment and unable to evacuate their wounded.

Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special military operation”. It has uprooted more than 1.5 million people in what the United Nations says is the fastest growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War Two.

While forging close relations with Russia on defense, trade and energy, and hosting millions of Russian tourists every year, Turkey has also sold drones to Ukraine, angering Moscow. Ankara also opposes Russian policies in Syria and Libya, and also opposed Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

  • Reuters