Top Russian and Ukrainian diplomats to meet Thursday in Turkey

ISTANBUL, March 7 – Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Ukrainian counterpart Dmitry Kuleba agreed to meet on Thursday at a forum in southern Turkey in what would be the first potential talks between senior diplomats since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine.

Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, made a statement on Monday and said he would attend a meeting in the resort city of Antalya. The Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed this plan.

NATO member Turkey, which has a maritime border with Russia and Ukraine in the Black Sea, has offered mediation between the parties. Ankara has good relations with both Moscow and Kiev and has called the Russian invasion unacceptable, even though it opposes sanctions against Moscow.

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Cavusoglu said that during a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday, President Tayyip Erdogan repeated Turkey’s offer to hold the meeting, and Lavrov later accepted it.

“We especially hope that this meeting will be a turning point and … an important step towards peace and stability,” he said, adding that both ministers had asked him to join the talks.

The official representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, confirmed the meeting on Telegram.

Kuleba said on Saturday that he was ready to negotiate with Lavrov, but only if they were “meaningful.”

On Monday, Russia announced new “humanitarian corridors” to transport Ukrainians trapped in its bombing raids to Russia itself and its ally Belarus, a move Kyiv immediately denounced as an immoral stunt. More

The announcement came after two days of an unsuccessful ceasefire to allow civilians to leave the besieged city of Mariupol, where hundreds of thousands of people are trapped without food or water, under relentless shelling and unable to evacuate their wounded.

Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special military operation.” This resulted in the expulsion of more than 1.5 million people in what the United Nations says is the fastest growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.

While developing close ties with Russia in defense, trade and energy, and hosting millions of Russian tourists every year, Turkey has also sold drones to Ukraine, angering Moscow. Ankara also opposes Russian policies in Syria and Libya, as well as Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

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Additional report by Ece Toksabay; Editing by Jonathan Spicer/Mark Heinrich

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