Russian-Ukrainian talks: Israel can become security guarantor for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian flags are seen on a table before the talks between officials of the two countries in the Brest region, Belarus March 3, 2022
(photo credit: VIA REUTERS)

Putin 'not ready to make compromises' • Delegations to meet with Erdogan before talks begin

Israel could become a security guarantor for Ukraine according to what was discussed in peace talks between Russia and Ukraine which wrapped up on Tuesday afternoon.

Russia's Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday that the fate of negotiations between Russia and Ukraine could be decided by Wednesday, according to Interfax.

Talks between Ukraine and Russia began in Turkey on Tuesday without a handshake, Ukrainian television reported.

"There was a cold welcome, no handshake," a Ukrainian reporter said, without making clear whether he had witnessed the delegations meeting or had been told this by officials.

Billionaire Roman Abramovich, one of the Russian oligarchs sanctioned by the West over Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, is attending peace talks between Ukrainian and Russian delegations in Istanbul on Tuesday, three sources said.

Russian negotiators landed in Istanbul ahead of another round of ceasefire talks with Ukrainian representatives, Russian state-owned news outlet TASS reported on Monday.

Talks were set to begin at 10:30 p.m. local time at the Dolmabahçe Palace, the largest in Istanbul, Ukrainian news outlet Ukrinform reported. The delegations from Kyiv and Moscow were set to meet with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan prior to the start of the talks, Ukrinform added.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (credit: SPUTNIK/MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/KREMLIN VIA REUTERS, VALENTYN OGIRENKO/REUTERS)

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Monday said Ukraine's most ambitious goal at talks with Russia in Turkey this week was to agree a ceasefire.

"The minimum program will be humanitarian questions, and the maximum program is reaching an agreement on a ceasefire," he said on national television, when asked about the scope of the latest round of peace negotiations that are expected to kick off tomorrow.

Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin agreed in a call on Sunday for Istanbul to host the talks, which Ankara hopes will lead to a ceasefire and a halt to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. This current round of talks in Turkey is expected to carry on to Tuesday.

Turkey is among countries that could offer Kyiv security guarantees as part of any deal with Russia to end the war in Ukraine, a senior Ukrainian official said on Monday. "Turkey is among those countries that could become guarantors of our security in the future," Ihor Zhovkva, deputy head of Zelensky's office, said ahead of peace talks scheduled between Kyiv and Moscow in Turkey.

Kyiv has said it wants legally binding security guarantees that would offer Ukraine protection from a group of allies in the event of a future attack.

Negotiations with Russia have not made much progress, but Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Sunday evening that Russia had made public statements about demands of  "denazification" and demilitarization to delay talks.

Despite talks resuming in Turkey, Putin does not appear ready to make compromises to end the war in Ukraine, a senior US official said on Monday. "Everything I have seen is he is not willing to compromise at this point," the senior US State Department official told Reuters on condition of anonymity after Ukraine's president sketched out a potential way to end the crisis over the weekend.

Zelensky said that security guarantees would only be met if there were certain assurances.

"I'm interested in it not being another piece of paper like the Budapest Memorandum. We are interested in turning this paper into a serious agreement, which will be signed by all guarantors, " said the Ukrainian president.

Zelensky said on Sunday evening that Ukraine was ready to exchange prisoners of war, even without cessation of hostilities.

"Lists are being compiled. Our military, I know, made lists. All those who are in captivity — these lists are available. I don't know if everyone is interested in them. Politicians, I think, are not very interested in them. I'm just not sure that the Russian side needs these lists, " said Zelensky, who added that there was no reason to wait until the war had ended to exchange prisoners. However, it appeared to him that Russia was not ready to make POW exchanges.

Zelensky also said that Ukraine did not wish to leave the bodies of slain Russian soldiers in its territory, but wanted to return them to their families. He went on to assert that the Russian government's attitude to its own war dead was unacceptable and that there had been little in terms of resources offered by Russia to Ukraine to protect the bodies.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid made a statement via Twitter on Tuesday evening after the day of talks, expressing concern for the civilians in Mariupol and calling for them to be given a safe evacuation route.

"Israel expresses deep concern regarding the dire humanitarian situation in Mariupol and calls for Russia to stop the fighting and allow for the evacuation of civilians to safety," he said in his tweet.

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