Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba have agreed to meet on Thursday, Turkish top diplomat Mevlut Cavusoglu has said, in what would be the first potential talks between the two officials since Russian troops invaded Ukraine on February 24.
“Hope this step will lead to peace and stability,” Cavusoglu wrote on Twitter on Monday, announcing that the talks were set to take place on the side of an international diplomatic forum in Antalya, in southern Turkey.
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NATO member Turkey, which shares a maritime border with Russia and Ukraine in the Black Sea, had been offering to mediate between the sides. Ankara has good relations with both Moscow and Kyiv, and has called Russia’s invasion unacceptable even as it opposes sanctions against Moscow.
Upon President @RTErdogan’s initiatives & our intensive diplomatic efforts, Foreign Ministers Sergei Lavrov of #Russia & Dmytro Kuleba of #Ukraine have decided to meet with my participation on the margins of @AntalyaDF.
Hope this step will lead to peace and stability.
— Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu (@MevlutCavusoglu) March 7, 2022
Cavusoglu said that in a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan repeated Turkey’s offer to host the meeting, which Lavrov later accepted.
“We especially hope that this meeting is a turning point and … an important step towards peace and stability,” he said, according to the news agency Reuters, adding both ministers had asked for him to join the meeting.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova confirmed the talks on Telegram. Kuleba had said on Saturday that he was open to talks with Lavrov but only if they were “meaningful”.
The announcement came as delegations from Ukraine and Russia started a third round of talks after two previous attempts failed to produce concrete results. On Sunday, a second effort to create humanitarian corridors to allow civilians to flee violence in the port city of Mariupol fell apart, with both Ukraine and Russia accusing each other of breaking previously agreed ceasefires.
At least 200,000 people in need are stuck in the coastal city that has been subjected to a relentless dayslong bombardment by Russian forces. People there are living in what aid group Doctor Without Borders, known by its French initials MSF, described as a “catastrophic” situation – with no food, heat or electricity.
Moscow on Monday proposed new humanitarian corridors, offering routes that would lead civilians into Russia or Belarus, which was used by Russian President Vladimir Putin as a launch pad for his ground invasion into Ukraine’s northern border. The move was swiftly rebuked by Ukraine as “immoral”.