Turkey Talks End in Deadlock

Moscow’s long-serving top diplomat, Sergey Lavrov, sat at the table along with Dmytro Kuleba of Ukraine and the Turkish foreign minister, Mevlut Çavuşoğlu.

The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, February 25, 2022. Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service via AP, fIle

ATHENS — This time, at least, Russia didn’t send its cultural attache to try to negotiate a truce.

A keenly anticipated trilateral meeting of the Russian, Ukrainian, and Turkish foreign ministers at the southern Turkish city of Antalya Thursday morning met with no breakthrough on a ceasefire agreement between Moscow and Kiev.

Unlike the talks at Belarus just days after Russia invaded Ukraine, to which Russia dispatched a culture advisor to meet with the Ukrainian defense minister, this time Moscow’s long-serving top diplomat, Sergey Lavrov, sat at the table along with Dmytro Kuleba of Ukraine and the Turkish foreign minister, Mevlut Çavuşoğlu.

Like that initial bilateral round of talks, though, today’s meeting — the first face-to-face talks that included the foreign ministers of Russia and Ukraine following two weeks of war — was mainly a letdown. Mr. Kuleba told reporters there had been no progress made on a ceasefire and accused Mr. Lavrov of having brought “traditional narratives” to the negotiating table in Antalya. In a thinly veiled reference to the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, Mr. Kuleba also said: “It seems that there are other decision-makers for this matter in Russia.”

Mr. Çavuşoğlu, for his part, said the meeting was conducted “in a civilized manner despite the difficulties.” The Turkish foreign minister has taken part as a facilitator in the highest-level Russian-Ukrainian talks since the start of the war in Ukraine, and added he had not expected “miracles” from the first meeting.

Even so, he welcomed that Messrs. Lavrov and Kuleba spoke of the possibility of a meeting between the Ukrainian and Russian presidents — with Russia agreeing “in principle” to such a meeting.

The Turkish minister said that during the three-way talks he pushed for a “sustainable cease-fire, adding, “Turkey is one of the countries that Ukraine is looking to among guarantors for a possible sustainable peace agreement.” In he absence of such, he said, “we stressed the need for humanitarian corridors to remain open…. We especially stressed the need for humanitarian corridors in Mariupol.”

This was the first trip outside of Russia for Mr. Lavrov since his country invaded Ukraine on February 24. The Turkish newspaper Daily Sabah reported that at a separate media briefing after this morning’s talks, Mr. Lavrov said the meeting “has confirmed that the Russian-Ukrainian format in Belarus has no alternative.“ He also said that Mr. Putin would not refuse a meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, to discuss “specific“ issues.

It would not have been like Mr. Lavrov to waste a good opportunity to upbraid what he called his “Western colleagues in the European Union,” who he accused of acting dangerously “in violation of all its so-called principles and values” by “encouraging the supply of deadly weapons to Ukraine.”

The Daily Sabah also reported that the NATO secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, is scheduled to meet with President Erdogan and Mr. Çavuşoğlu in Antalya Friday, during the course of a diplomatic forum being held there.


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