Foreign Ministers of Russia and the Ukraine -- Sergey Lavrov and Dmitry Kuleba--who held their first round of talks in Turkey have discussed the possibility of a summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky to end their conflict which has now rumbled into its fifteenth day.
The surge in high-level diplomacy follows feelers from Zelensky to consider Russian demands., which include recognition of Crimea as a Russian territory and the status of the breakaway Donetsk and Luhansk republics, which have been recognised by Moscow as sovereign states.
After his meeting hosted by the Turkish Foreign Minister---at the resort city of Antalya, the Russian Foreign Minister elaborated on Russian demands to end the war. Lavrov stressed that Moscow wants Ukraine to remain neutral. In return Moscow is ready to discuss security guarantees for Ukraine, European countries, and Russia itself. Lavrov pointed out that Moscow wants friendly relations with Ukraine--a country that should not work to ban Russian language and culture.
After launching a military invasion on February 24, President Putin said the purpose of the special operation was to demilitarise and de-Nazify the country. The Russian side said Moscow was left with no other choice as Kiev had failed to implement the Minsk agreements--a diplomatic blueprint for safeguarding rights of ethnic Russians in the strategically vital region within a unified Ukrainian state. Besides, Ukraine had threatened to pullout from the Budapest Memorandum, the basis for guaranteeing Ukraine's status as a non-nuclear weapon state.
The Russian side has also pointed out that NATO must stick to its 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act of 1997 which froze the grouping's military capabilities, including strike (capabilities), and NATO infrastructure to that year. But in 2008 NATO adopted the "Bucharest formula" which threatened to expand the grouping to cover two ex-Soviet states--Georgia and Ukraine.
Earlier Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov had made it plain that Ukraine's neutrality should be enshrined in its constitution.
While emphasising that Moscow will not abandon the diplomatic track, Lavrov asserted that there was no alternative to Belarus as the main host of dialogue between Russia and Ukraine.
"Today's conversation confirmed that (the Belarusian) track (for negotiations) has no alternatives", Lavrov said.
He noted that the issue of negotiating a ceasefire was not on the agenda of his talks with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba on Friday.
The Foreign Minister spotlighted that Moscow backs any contacts that are aimed at ending the current crisis in Ukraine, but added that these channels must have "added value" for Moscow to endorse them.
"We act based on the premise that these contacts will not be used to replace or devalue the real main negotiating track that is developing on Belarusian territory -- something that our colleagues, mostly Ukrainian, do routinely," Lavrov said.
Lavrov stressed that President Putin never says "no" to contacts, as long as these conversations are not held "for the sake of meetings themselves". The Kremlin has not yet confirmed that such talks are being organised, but the subject was raised during Lavrov's talks with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba in Turkey, news website Sputnik reported.