Russia-Ukraine confidence building 'going well': Turkish foreign minister

Finding negotiated solution was easier in initial weeks of Ukraine war, says Mevlut Cavusoglu, adding that now, 'things have changed'.

Russia-Ukraine confidence building 'going well': Turkish foreign minister

Confidence-building measures between Russia and Ukraine are "going well," Türkiye's foreign minister said Monday.

"The confidence-building measures, like exchanging war prisoners, have also been going well. We have also been mediating to that end," said Mevlut Cavusoglu at a panel during the 17th Bled Strategic Forum in Slovenia.

Underlining that there have been "terrible wars in the history within Europe, between Turks and some Europeans," Cavusoglu said such times were now over and that "true friendship in Europe" has blossomed.

"So, this war, today or tomorrow, earlier or later, will be over. We don't know how long it will take," he said, inquiring whether lessons would be learned from the current Russia-Ukraine war.

Questioning also how countries would adapt to the new realities, Cavusoglu said a "negotiated solution" to the war was "much easier to reach in the initial weeks" of the conflict.

Citing the meetings between Ukrainian and Russian delegations in Turkish cities of Antalya and Istanbul earlier this year, Cavusoglu said things have since changed and that it was "not that easy" to reach a negotiated solution.

"After the disturbing images we saw from Irpin and Bucha, things have changed. But now, there are new realities on the ground. Unfortunately, some cities, other than the Donbas region of Ukraine, have fallen. We are talking about peace, but it has to be a mutually accepted one. But it has to be, at the same time, a fair peace for Ukraine ... the territorial integrity of Ukraine has to be essential," he added.

Emphasizing that such new realities would "definitely" be reflected in further negotiations," Cavusoglu said that the sides' positions on the status of the Crimea and Donbas regions have also changed.

Confidence-building and Türkiye

The Turkish minister continued by affirming that Ankara is engaged in separate and ongoing dialogue with both Kyiv and Moscow, adding that his country has "good relations, of course, with both Russia and Ukraine."

"Meanwhile, of course, we have a principled stance and we are supporting Ukraine's territorial integrity. We are providing support, maybe more than many other NATO allies, to Ukraine. And at the same time, we are also in dialogue with Russia, and that dialogue has been bearing fruits," Cavusoglu said, adding that such dialogue was the reason why July's historic deal that secured Ukrainian grain exports had worked.

Türkiye, the UN, Russia, and Ukraine signed an agreement in Istanbul on July 22 to resume grain exports from three Ukrainian Black Sea ports which were halted due to the Russia-Ukraine war, now in its seventh month.

A Joint Coordination Center with officials from the three countries and the UN has been set up in Istanbul to oversee the shipments.

Since the first ship left Ukraine under the deal on Aug. 1, 56 ships with at least 1.3 million tons of agricultural products have left ports, according to Cavusoglu.

As the grain shipments continue, Cavusoglu said Russia has expressed concerns being managed by Türkiye in cooperation with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

"I hope it will be an unhindered operation," he added.

Noting that Türkiye has been involved in confidence-building measures between the two sides since the beginning of the war, Cavusoglu said that such steps included the grain agreement, talks between Russian nuclear power company Rosatom, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

"I hope it will pave the wave to reach a cease-fire, truce, and lasting peace," he added.

Cavusoglu also confirmed that there have been "back channels" between the presidents of the two countries "from the beginning" in addition to negotiations between Russian and Ukrainian delegates.

Sidelines

Separately, Cavusoglu met with his Slovenian counterpart, Tanja Fajon, at the sidelines of the 17th Bled Strategic Forum.

"On the 30th anniversary of our diplomatic relations, we discussed regional developments, especially Bosnia and Herzegovina, with Slovenian Foreign Minister Tanja Fajon," Cavusoglu said on Twitter.

He also "discussed the latest developments in Ukraine" as well as bilateral relations with Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau.

"Met my Kosovar counterpart Donika Gervalla-Schwarz at #BSF2022. Welcomed the agreement reached on border crossings between Kosovo & Serbia," Cavusoglu said on Twitter, as well.

The Turkish minister also separately met with his Spanish and Montenegrin counterparts.

"Met FM Jose Manuel Albares of Spain at @BledStratForum. Discussed latest developments in #Ukraine, #Libya & enlargement of #NATO," Cavusoglu said.

Hüseyin Demir

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