Turkey, Israel working to help Ukraine set up talks with Russia for a ceasefire

Ukraine is working with Israel and Turkey as mediators to settle on a framework as well as a location where peace negotiations can take place with Russia, Reuters reported on Sunday.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Zelensky and a member of Ukraine's negotiating team offered an assessment on Sunday on the status of talks with Russia to end its war that began on February 24. Podolyak said that Ukraine imparted on Moscow the understanding that it would not retreat from any of its positions "in principle" but this was greeted constructively by the Russian side.

"I think that we will achieve some results literally in a matter of days," said Podolyak. 

Israel and Turkey, who each have good relations with the two sides, have been keen to maintain the image of neutrality since the war began.

For israel, Russian goodwill is essential to keep up its military operations in Syria against Iran while Tel Aviv has been at work trying to aid Ukrainian Jews caught up in the crossfire. Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett embarked on a tour in shuttle diplomacy that took him to Moscow where he met with Russia’s Vladimir Putin for three hours. He later relayed his own assessments of his conversations with Putin to Zelensky and Western leaders. 

Meanwhile, Turkey and its President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have worked to mediate between Russia and Ukraine. Following pressure from Zelensky, Erdogan announced a closure of the Black Sea to all warships by invoking its powers under the 1936 Montreux Convention but he ruled out cutting any ties to Russia. Last Thursday, the foreign ministers for Russia and Ukraine met in Antalya together with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu for negotiations. However, these proved inconclusive. 

Zelensky, who has remained in Kyiv as Russia’s forces position themselves only a few short miles from the city center, insists that he is ready to take part in negotiations in a neutral setting, including Istanbul or Jerusalem. However, he has expressed mixed satisfaction with the mediating efforts to end the war. 

On March 3, Zelensky, who is Jewish, bluntly criticised Bennett for what he considered his lack of adequate support for Ukraine as it came under attack by Russia. Eight days later, Axios reported that Bennett urged Zelensky to accept a peace offer from Putin but Zelensky and his advisers rejected it, according to an unnamed Ukrainian official. The Israeli Prime Minister’s office denied the claim and said no such framework from Putin exists. 

By contrast, Zelensky has appeared less discontent with Turkey and Erdogan’s response to the war. In a meeting with foreign journalists on March 3, the same day he criticised Bennett, Zelensky praised Erdogan for his attempts at diplomacy with Putin and expressed hope that he will be successful in his diplomacy. 

The Ukrainian leader also made clear that he would like to see Turkey take on a greater role as a guarantor of Ukraine’s security once the war comes to an end. 

"I think that [Erdogan] is one of those guarantors of security for Ukraine, and he will definitely be one of those countries that should introduce security guarantees for Ukraine,” said Zelensky.

 

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