Russian and Ukrainian negotiators have ended the first direct talks in more than two weeks in Istanbul, with Moscow saying it was ready to “fundamentally cut back” military activity near the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv.
Deputy Defence Minister Alexander Fomin said the move was meant “to increase trust” in talks aimed at ending the fighting, as negotiators met face-to-face on Tuesday after several rounds of failed talks.
Fomin said Moscow had decided to “fundamentally … cut back military activity in the direction of Kyiv and Chernihiv”.
On the Ukrainian side, negotiators said they were willing to agree to a neutral status – one of Russia’s key demands – if an international agreement under which other countries would serve as guarantors of Ukraine’s security would come into place.
“We want an international mechanism of security guarantees where guarantor countries will act in a similar way to NATO’s article number five – and even more firmly,” David Arakhamia, a Ukrainian negotiator, told reporters.
Arakhamia said a meeting between the Ukrainian and Russian presidents is possible, and that before any final agreement with Russia, there needs to be full peace across Ukraine.
Turkey hails ‘significant progress’
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the talks at the Dolmabahce Palace on the Bosphorus strait marked “most significant progress” since war broke out between the two countries.
Speaking after the three-hour talks concluded, Cavusoglu said the discussions represented “the most significant progress since negotiations began” following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Talks would not resume on Wednesday, he added.
Al Jazeera’s Hashem Ahelbarra, reporting from Moscow, said Russia’s announcement could be the “most significant by the Russian military” since President Vladimir Putin launched the invasion of Ukraine last month.
This is an indication “there has been major progress in the talks” between Moscow and Kyiv, Ahelbarra said.
He added the move would send a “message to the Ukrainians that Russia has no intentions whatsoever to mass troops or move troops in the future to try and take over Kyiv”.