Conflicts & War

Russia: Moscow, Kyiv narrow differences on Ukrainian neutrality

Moscow, Mar 18 (EFE)- Moscow and Kyiv have made significant progress toward agreement on neutral status for Ukraine in the talks that began days after Russian forces invaded the neighboring country on Feb. 24, Russia’s top negotiator said Friday.

“The issue of neutral status of Ukraine and its non-accession to NATO is one of key points of the talks. This is the point where the sides aligned their positions the most,” Vladimir Medinsky said, according to official Russian news agency TASS.

Among the “nuances” that remain to be determine are “what guarantees of security would Ukraine get in addition to already existing ones, should it reject accession to NATO,” Medinsky said.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Thursday after meeting with Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu that Kyiv wants Turkey and Germany to join the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – the United States, China, Russia, France, and the United Kingdom – as guarantors of Ukraine’s security.

Regarding another of the objectives stated by Russian President Vladimir Putin at the start of the military operation, Medinsky said that the delegations were “half-way” toward agreement on the “demilitarization” of Ukraine.

But Kyiv’s chief negotiator, Mykhailo Podolyak, dismissed Medinsky’s comments as no more than Russia’s “requests.”

“Our position remains steadfast: cease-fire, withdrawal of troops, and strict security guarantees with specific formulas,” the adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy wrote in a post on Telegram.

Ukrainian and Russian delegations met face-to-face on three occasions in Belarus ahead of talks on March 10 in Antalya, Turkey, between Kuleba and Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov.

For the last eight days, the sides have negotiated daily via video-link.

In a telephone conversation on Thursday, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan invited Putin to meet with Zelenskyy in Ankara and Istanbul to arrange a cease-fire as a preliminary to talks on a final settlement.

Yet while Zelenskyy has repeatedly requested direct talks with Putin, Medinsky repeated Friday that such a meeting would make sense only once an agreement is ready for the presidents’ signatures. EFE mos/dr

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