Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba could meet within two weeks for talks, Turkey said Thursday, after hosting negotiators from both sides earlier this week. “There could be a higher-level meeting, at least at the level of foreign ministers, within about a week or two weeks,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in a televised interview.
“What matters is that the two sides come together and agree on a lasting ceasefire,” he said. “We would like to host a foreign ministers’ meeting as an honest mediator.”
Russian and Ukrainian negotiators met in Istanbul on Tuesday. The talks provided a spark of hope for an end to the war in Ukraine but there are few signs of attacks abating on the ground.
NATO member Turkey, which has friendly ties with both sides, has positioned itself as a mediator and hosted Lavrov and Kuleba in the southern city of Antalya in early March.
Cavusoglu said the most significant progress so far had been obtained at the talks in Istanbul.
“Is everything over? It’s not… Some steps were taken to reduce the tension, even though we don’t see it much on the ground,” he said. “Some say it’s tactical manoeuvering. Some raise doubts. We are cautious,” said Cavusoglu.
The Turkish minister also praised Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich, who was present at the Istanbul talks, for his “useful role” in ending the war.
Meanwhile, Ukraine said Thursday it was sending dozens of buses to evacuate civilians from the besieged city of Mariupol after a Russian ceasefire announcement, but dismissed Kremlin promises to scale back attacks on the capital saying forces were simply regrouping to target the east.
Tens of thousands of civilians are trapped in besieged Mariupol with little food, water or medicine, and previous attempts to agree a humanitarian corridor have failed, despite international pressure.
But on Thursday, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said buses were heading to the city, where Russia said it would observe a ceasefire. – NDTV