Ukraine, Erdogan is trying (with the UN). First file: Zaporizhia nuclear power plant

by Lorenzo Cremonesi

The Turkish leader arrives to mediate: «I am with Kyiv». Guterres: “We need to be willing to compromise”

It is still unclear to what extent it is currently really possible to break the circle of war and start concrete negotiations between Moscow and Kyiv in order to reach a ceasefire. But if there is a mediator today who has the potential to do so, then Recep Tayyip Erdogan seems to be the right man. This is the backdrop to the trilateral meeting between the Turkish President, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Volodymyr Zelenskyy, which took place yesterday in Lviv. We talk about wheat, we expand on the potentially dramatic issue of the controversial nuclear power plant in the Zaporizhia region, and yet at the heart of the talks is the hope of ending the conflict in a reasonably short time.

“Erdogan speaks to NATO’s top partners on an equal footing, and yet he is the only one among them who is heard by Putin,” said advisers to the Ukrainian president in Kyiv. The same people who had Erdogan in mind in May when they sought help to negotiate the release of the last fighters encircled in Mariupol, and from whom they returned in July to finalize the deal to open ports in the Odessa region . The deal for Mariupol only partially worked, given the bad luck that befell the Azov prisoners who ended up in Russian jails.

But the wheat deal signed on July 20 is working very well: Erdogan offered Guterres the opportunity to set up the headquarters in Istanbul of the Russian, Ukrainian, Turkish and UN commissioners responsible for inspecting the cargo of ships leaving Ukrainian ports and arrive. And since the beginning of August, the specter of world hunger seems more distant because of the Ukrainian grain blockade: at least 21 merchant ships have already set sail from the Odessa coast with Moscow’s approval, and another 15 have left Istanbul to dock there.
A success that, according to Guterres, as he said after 40 minutes of talks in Lviv, should contribute to the “willingness to compromise” for new agreements. “We also talked about new prisoner exchanges,” said Erdogan, hoping that this could contribute to peace. In short, from wheat to nuclear power, the first deal should help oil the gears of the second and therefore lead to broader deals. Erdogan had met with Putin at his residence in Soci on the Black Sea in early August, where they discussed strengthening bilateral trade ties. Something similar was also achieved with Zelensky. “Turkey will help rebuild our infrastructure,” said the Ukrainian President, promising millionaire deals.

However, it is not yet clear what the agreements on Zaporizhia are, if any. Moscow and Kyiv continue to accuse each other of bombing the area of ​​the six reactors, risking triggering a nuclear accident that could be far worse than that at the Chernobyl power plant in 1986. “That would be suicide,” Guterres reiterated and demanded thus the establishment of a “demilitarized zone” around Zaporizhia. Moscow refuses, claiming that its soldiers are “protecting the plant.” Guterres, on the other hand, would have found an agreement with Zelenskyy to guarantee a visit to the plant by an inspectorate from the International Atomic Energy Agency.

But the Russians are demanding complete control over the delegation and denying the possibility of it passing through areas held by Ukrainian forces. It therefore appears that negotiations are to be continued. While the war remains more acute than ever. Moscow affirms that it has no interest in a “nuclear confrontation” with the West and is now stationing three MiG-31s ​​equipped with hypersonic missiles in Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea. But the bombing of Ukraine is cruel. About twenty civilians have died in Kharkiv in the past 24 hours.

August 18, 2022 (change August 18, 2022 | 23:28)