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kyiv announces real progress in negotiations with Moscow

Russian negotiator Vladimir Medinsky (left) and his Ukrainian counterpart David Arakhamia, in Istanbul, March 29, 2022.

As long as Moscow has not given its version, it is too early to speak of a major step towards an agreement between Russia and Ukraine. But the declarations, Saturday April 2, of David Arakhamia let glimpse a hope of conciliation after more than five weeks of conflict.

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Speaking on a television program, the chief negotiator of the Ukrainian side in the talks started in Istanbul (Turkey) with Russia addressed several essential points of blockage between the two countries.

“The Russian Federation has given an official response to all positions [ukrainiennes] » formulated during the last peace talks in Istanbul“namely that it accepts them, except with regard to the question of the Crimea”, assured Mr. Arakhamia. The latter added that there was no “no official confirmation in writing”the Russian side having simply expressed its agreement “orally”.

On Crimea, Moscow would have notably refused the proposal to negotiate for a period of fifteen years the future status of this Ukrainian region – it was annexed by Russia in 2014.

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Mr Arakhamia, on the other hand, did not mention the cases of Donetsk and Luhansk, the two Ukrainian separatist provinces of Donbass whose independence Russian President Vladimir Putin has recognized.

  • Ukraine’s neutrality

The Ukrainian negotiator pointed out that Moscow had agreed during the talks that a referendum on Ukraine’s neutrality would be “the only way out of this situation”. If kyiv did not agree to such a status, “we will either return to a state of war, perhaps, or to new negotiations”, he added.

The Kremlin has insisted that Ukraine should give up joining the Atlantic Alliance (NATO) and opt for neutrality.

  • Conditions for a Zelensky-Putin meeting

Mr Arakhamia also said that if a meeting between Ukrainian Presidents Volodymyr Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin was to finally take place, it would take place ” very probably “ in Turkey.

The Turkish head of state, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who this week welcomed the Russian and Ukrainian delegations to his country, “called us and Vladimir Putin”, Friday, saying he would host such a meeting, he revealed. “We don’t know the date or the place, but we think it will most likely be in Ankara or Istanbul”Mr. Arakhamia noted.

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Since the start of the invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly demanded face-to-face talks with Mr. Putin.

No reaction from Moscow came to corroborate Mr. Arakhamia’s statements. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in an interview with Belarusian television on Saturday that negotiations with Ukraine were delicate. “Ukraine is a very difficult country, very difficult with us. He shows a lot of hostility towards us”he said. “The most important thing is that the negotiations continue, whether in Istanbul or elsewhere”he added.

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Le Monde with AFP and Reuters

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