Diplomacy Watch: Talks to end the war are back on the agenda
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hosted his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan and United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres in Lviv on Thursday. Though details of the talks remain unclear, diplomatic efforts aimed at ending the war were on the agenda, according to AP.
The summit indicates that Ukraine has softened its opposition to considering a diplomatic end to the war. Given Russian territorial advances, Ukrainian officials had previously argued that a counterattack aimed at retaking land would be a prerequisite for any talks, and just last week a Zelensky adviser said Kyiv intends to “fight to the last Russian on the territory of Ukraine.”
It also shows that Turkey and the UN will continue to serve a central role in the international response to the war. Erdogan has refashioned himself as a mediator between East and West in recent months, arming Ukraine with one hand and spearheading talks with Russia with the other. Guterres has also made himself useful by heading the humanitarian response to the war and supporting talks on a range of issues affected by the conflict.
But their efforts to bring Ukraine to the table rely on an unpredictable factor: Russian President Vladimir Putin. Putin has often contended that he is ready to negotiate an end to the war, but it’s a lot easier to say that when the other side shows no desire to start talks. Only time will tell if the Russian president’s avowed zeal for negotiations is really a bluff.
In other diplomatic news related to the war in Ukraine:
— Russia and Ukraine agreed to let an international delegation inspect the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant after days of shelling near the facility, according to the New York Times. The move will likely help to assuage concerns about a potential meltdown at the plant, which is the largest of its kind in Europe. The decision may have been a result of the Lviv talks, which included discussions about how to keep the situation at the facility under control.
— A UN-chartered grain ship left one of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports on Sunday, according to Politico. The World Food Program vessel — the first to leave Ukraine since the war began — is carrying 23,000 metric tons of wheat that will help fight hunger in Ethiopia, where a civil war has left many in need of emergency aid. In related news, the United States announced Tuesday that it will give $68 million to the WFP, which will allow it to buy and distribute 150,000 metric tons of wheat, according to the Wall Street Journal.
— American basketball star Britney Griner’s defense team said Monday that it will file an appeal after she was sentenced to prison in Russia for possession of cannabis oil, according to the New York Times. The move comes as Moscow and Washington continue to discuss a prisoner swap that could bring home Griner and ex-Marine Paul Whelan in exchange for a Russian arms dealer imprisoned in the United States. “We’re in communication with Russian officials on the serious, substantial proposal that we put forward,” said State Department spokesperson Ned Price in a press briefing Monday. “We will continue to urge the Russians to engage constructively so that we can bring this to a resolution.”
— Efforts to isolate Russia at the UN have stalled, according to Reuters. Despite early success in rallying the international community against Moscow’s brutal invasion, “Western countries are shying away from some specific moves, fearing tepid support, as rising vote abstentions have signaled a growing unwillingness to publicly oppose Moscow.”
U.S. State Department news:
In a press briefing on Wednesday, Price emphasized the importance of avoiding escalation in Ukraine when asked if the United State should provide Ukraine with longer range weapons. “It is not in Ukraine’s interest, it is not in NATO’s interest, it is not in Europe’s interest, it is not in our interest to see Russia’s aggression against Ukraine become a broader conflagration, and for this war to spill beyond the borders of Ukraine more broadly into Europe, or potentially bringing Russia into conflict with NATO and the United States,” he said. “That is not in anyone’s interest.”