Turkey says Russia-Ukraine talks in Istanbul mark most significant progress yet

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has hailed the Russia-Ukraine peace talks in Istanbul, saying that the March 29 meeting was the "most meaningful progress since the start of negotiations."


Talks between Ukrainian and Russian negotiators in Istanbul on March 29 marked the most significant progress in discussions to date, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said after the negotiations concluded.

Ukrainian and Russian negotiators held the first face-to-face meeting between the sides in more than two weeks on March 29, amid Russia's invasion of its neighbour, now in its fifth week.

Speaking at the venue of the talks in Istanbul, Çavuşoğlu said Turkey welcomed the two countries reaching compromise and a common understanding on certain issues and said the war must end as soon as possible.

He also said that "more difficult issues" were expected to be discussed between Ukrainian and Russian foreign ministers at a later date, adding that the leaders of the two countries would meet subsequently.

Earlier, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that progress in the talks would pave the way for a meeting of the countries' two leaders. 

In a televised speech, Erdoğan said the time has come for talks to yield concrete results and called for an immediate ceasefire, saying that "stopping this tragedy" was up to both sides.

The March 29 talks between the two sides were the first in person since an acrimonious meeting between foreign ministers on March 10, a sign of a shift behind the scenes as Russia loses battlefield momentum.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on March 28 said Ukraine's most ambitious goal at the talks with Russia in Turkey this week was to agree on a ceasefire.

Ukraine is ready to discuss adopting a neutral status as part of a peace deal with Russia, but such a pact would have to be guaranteed by third parties and put to a referendum, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in remarks aired on March 27. 

However, a senior U.S. official said on March 28 that Russian President Vladimir Putin does not appear to be ready to make compromises to end the war in Ukraine.

The more than month-long invasion, the biggest of a Western nation since World War Two, has seen over 3.8 million people flee abroad, left thousands dead or injured, and brought the isolation of Russia's economy.

Nearly 5,000 people have been killed, including about 210 children, in the port city of Mariupol amid heavy Russian bombardment, according to figures from the mayor. Reuters was unable to immediately verify the numbers.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said talks so far had not yielded any substantial progress but it was important they continued in person.