Russia-Ukraine Peace Talks Enter a New Phase in Istanbul

ISTANBUL – On Tuesday, for the first time in more than two weeks, Ukrainian and Russian negotiators faced each other. They did so on a white tablecloth at a long table inside a 19th-century Ottoman palace on the banks of the Bosporus, greeted by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who greeted them with an English “hi” morning”.

After more than a month of negotiations – first in person in Belarus, then in recent weeks by video link – diplomacy between Ukraine and Russia run parallel to their war entered a new phase on Tuesday. The fact that the talks have become more serious is reflected in the background, the palace where Mr. Erdogan – who maintains ties to both Moscow and Kyiv – often hosts major government events while in Istanbul. .

“As members of the delegations, you have shouldered a historical responsibility, speaking to the delegates in front of a work of art that shows passing birds,” Mr. landmarks of Istanbul. “All the world is expecting good news from you.”

David Arakhamia, head of Ukraine’s nine-man delegation, said that holding the talks in Turkey was a “victory” in itself, because Turkey “is our friend and partner.” . Previous rounds of direct talks were held in Belarus, Russia’s closest ally.

However, Turkey, a NATO member, is also adamant in maintaining relations with Russia, refusing to join sanctions against Moscow and maintaining direct air connections to many Russian cities. Mr. Erdogan said that once President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine are ready to meet face-to-face, Turkey will be ready to host them.

In the video of the meeting broadcast by Turkey, the two delegations could not be seen shaking hands, as the Russians arrived after the Ukrainians were already seated. But they spoke in small Russian, as when Mr. Arakhamia told the head of the Russian delegation, Vladimir Medinsky, that the little bottle on the table was hand sanitizer; Mr. Medinsky’s reaction was not quite audible, but some Russian media reported that he Fleer“Vodka, I think.”

The Russian delegates wore suits, while the Ukrainians dressed more casually, one in a short-sleeved shirt, the other in military uniform.

Delegates gathered in the grounds of Dolmabahce Palace in central Istanbul. That’s where Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, died in 1938, and it’s now partly used by Erdogan as his office while he’s in Istanbul.

Also present in the room when Mr. Erdogan spoke was Roman Abramovich, the Russian business magnate, who is said to have halted relations between Moscow and Kyiv to try to move negotiations forward. Reports have emerged that he and several Ukrainian negotiators were victims of a potential poisoning after suffering symptoms including impaired vision at previous rounds of negotiations. Mr. Abramovich sat next to Ibrahim Kalin, Erdogan’s spokesman.

Safak Timur contributed reporting.

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