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Ukraine war: Erdogan urges Russia-Ukraine peace deal as talks get under way in Turkey

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By Euronews  with APF, AP
A Russian Government Special Flight Squadron carrying members of the Russian delegation lands at Ataturk Airport, ahead of the expected peace talks with Ukrainian officials
A Russian Government Special Flight Squadron carrying members of the Russian delegation lands at Ataturk Airport, ahead of the expected peace talks with Ukrainian officials   -   Copyright  Credit: Reuters   -  

New talks between Russia and Ukraine are getting underway in Istanbul on Tuesday, to try and bring an end to the war which is now in its second month.

The talks are taking place in the Dolmabahçe Palace, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan welcomed the negotiators to Istanbul on Tuesday morning saying both Ukraine and Russia have "legitimate concerns" and called on them to "put an end to this tragedy."

"The whole world is awaiting good news," Erdogan told negotiators. "You're establishing a foundation for peace with guidance from your leaders."

The talks come as Russia says it wants to refocus its invasion efforts to consolidate ground held in the east of the country, in the predominantly Russian-speaking Donbas region.

However Ukrainian forces have started to regain ground in several key towns, giving them some possible leverage for diplomatic talks.

“We still have to fight, we have to endure,” Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nighttime video address to the nation. “We can’t express our emotions now. We can’t raise expectations, simply so that we don’t burn out.”

The Russian negotiators arrived on Monday in Istanbul, where a previous round of talks took place on 10 March at foreign minister level but failed to produce any progress. The talks then continued by video conference.

Ahead of the talks, Zelenskyy said his country is prepared to declare its neutrality, as Moscow has demanded, in comments that might lend momentum to negotiations.

Zelenskyy said over the weekend that compromise might be possible over “the complex issue of Donbas,” the hotly contested region in the country’s east. It's unclear how that might be reconciled with his stance that “Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are beyond doubt”.

Russia has long demanded that Ukraine drop any hope of joining NATO, which Moscow sees as a threat. Zelenskyy, for his part, has stressed that Ukraine needs security guarantees of its own as part of any deal.

Zelenskyy has said it would need to put any deal on neutrality to a referendum but only after Russian forces withdraw, but he has also accused Vladimir Putin and his entourage of "dragging things out", and had his calls for a face-to-face meeting rebuffed -- at least for the time being.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, however, tempered expectations on Monday, pointing to the lack of "significant progress" in the negotiations so far.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kouleba later said on his ministry's website that Zelensky had "given very clear instructions to our delegation. We do not bargain for people, territory or sovereignty".