Putin's plot to 'stall' Ukraine peace talks reveals Elisabeth Braw
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Turkey has situated itself firmly in the middle of Ukraine and Russia and acted as a mediator as the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine continues. Those negotiations have yielded few firm results so far, especially as Russia continues to bombard Ukrainian cities.
In the early days of the war, the talks made little apparent progress as Ukraine appeared to be demanding an immediate ceasefire, and Russian withdrawal of troops while Russia wanted Ukraine’s neutrality and no membership in NATO.
However, in recent days, some glimmers of hope have emerged.
Ukraine has put forward serious proposals, which are centred around a commitment to permanent neutrality and an agreement not to seek NATO membership, in exchange for security guarantees.
Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkey’s Foreign Minister, who is helping to broker the talks, described the discussions earlier in the week as “the most meaningful progress since the start of negotiations”.
Steven Cook, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and expert on Turkish politics, explained Mr Erdogan hopes to use his good relationship with both Moscow and Kyiv in order to broker peace.
He told Politico: “It’s quite different from other NATO allies.
“The Turks are really trying to position themselves in a way where they support Ukrainian sovereignty but also want to use their good offices in both places to try to mediate.
“Over the course of the last 10 years, the Turks had really chafed at their relationship with the US — they’ve been very dissatisfied with it.
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“They have a fairly good working relationship.”
Mr Erdogan and his Russian counterpart held an uneasy relationship in 2016 due to their opposing positions on Syria, with Erdogan pushing for a greater NATO presence in the Black Sea.
He lamented at the time: “The Black Sea has almost become a Russian lake.”
However, Turkey’s relationship with Putin warmed following a coup, which saw Erdogan turn away from the US.
Kemal Kirişci, a professor and senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, said when Putin supported Mr Erdogan following the coup attempt, it solidified the two nations’ working relationship.
He said: “While [former US President Barack] Obama and his European counterparts sat on a fence, Putin immediately became his saviour and promised him all the support he could give.
“And there were always rumours that it was the Russians that had warned Erdogan.”
“His relationship with the West went from bad to worse and autocrats are very good at coming together.”
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