Ukraine: Zelenski moves away the expectation of peace: he will only negotiate if Russia abandons all the occupied territories | International
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Ukraine assures that it will not open peace negotiations with Russia while there are Russian soldiers on its territory. This includes not only the regions that Moscow’s troops have conquered since the invasion they launched on February 24, but also those they have controlled since 2014, such as the Crimean peninsula and most of the eastern provinces of Donbas. This was stated this Thursday by the Ukrainian president, Volodímir Zelenski, before the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and the Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres. “Future negotiations can only take place when Russia abandons all Ukrainian territory,” Zelensky said.
The summit, held in Lviv, a Ukrainian city near the border with Poland, has served for Erdogan and Guterres to show Zelensky their determination to end the war at the negotiating table. Both are the main supporters of the diplomatic route to end the war. “The main point of dialogue with the UN Secretary General is how to achieve the end of the war,” Erdogan said. “We have to find the shortest and fastest way to start the negotiating table,” added the Turkish head of state. Shortly before, at a joint press conference, Zelensky stated: “We have no confidence that Russia will fulfill its commitments.”
The three leaders have shown harmony in defending the territorial integrity of Ukraine. The Ukrainian side has raised its tone in recent weeks about its willingness to militarily expel Russian troops, including from the territories broken off in the 2014 war, both the pro-Russian separatist areas of Donbas and the Crimean peninsula, annexed that year by Russia after a referendum not recognized by the international community.
Another point on which they have agreed is the need for Russia to demilitarize the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe, and where exchanges of fire between the two Armies are taking place. “We do not want another Chernobyl,” Erdogan said, recalling the 1986 nuclear tragedy that occurred during the Soviet Union on Ukrainian soil. Guterres has shown his “enormous concern” about the fact that Russia has deployed troops, artillery and military vehicles inside the plant: “The area must be demilitarized, any other option would be suicidal.” The UN secretary general has endorsed the proposal of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to send a monitoring mission to Zaporizhia, although he has stressed that it should be under the jurisdiction of kyiv.
The Ukrainian president, with a more tense face than Erdogan and Guterres, has even corrected the interpreter who translated his words into English because he had omitted a part of his statement in which he recalled that Ukrainian civilians die every day under Russian bombs. The summit was held at the Potocki Palace, the residence of Count Alfred Josef Potocki, a Polish nobleman and former Prime Minister of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. From the entrance courtyard to the palace, the boxes of humanitarian aid that accumulate in adjoining art pavilions could be distinguished. In the street, a group of citizens demanded that Russia release the Ukrainian prisoners of war who resisted until the last moment in the siege of Mariupol, a city now under the control of the Kremlin.
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Erdogan has guaranteed his support for Zelensky to get prisoners of war back to Ukraine. He has also stressed that he will forward the conclusions of the meeting to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Erdogan met on August 5 with Putin. According to Russian and Turkish media reports, Putin was in favor of meeting with Zelensky, although the Russian side is not willing to back down from the 20% of Ukraine that it has occupied militarily.
This has been Erdogan’s first visit to Ukraine since the war broke out. “We are committed to diplomacy at the same time that we are at the side of our Ukrainian friends,” said the Turkish leader. He has insisted that the model to follow is the agreement signed at the end of July in Istanbul between Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the UN for the Russian fleet to allow the export of Ukrainian cereals through the Black Sea. “The food export agreement demonstrates the success of diplomacy. This is just the beginning”, added Guterres. But the initiatives [diplomáticas] in a situation of war they are inevitably fragile”, the UN Secretary-General warned.
hot phase of the conflict
Russia and Ukraine tried last March, also in Turkey, to bring positions closer together for a hypothetical suspension of hostilities, although the negotiations failed. The current situation, of maximum military tension, makes it impossible for positions to come closer, as Oksana Mishlovska, a researcher at the University of Bern, explained in an interview with EL PAÍS last July: “In the current phase of the conflict, the surveys show that a large Most Russians and Ukrainians believe in victory on their side, a situation that is understood in academic literature to be part of the hot phase of the conflict. Mishlovska added that the huge fall in the Ukrainian GDP and the continuation of the conflict means an increasing dependence on its Western allies and NATO, including Turkey.
Erdogan landed in Poland on Thursday morning – Ukrainian airspace is closed due to the risk of aircraft being shot down by Russia – and was scheduled to return to Turkey that same day. Guterres, on the other hand, will continue his second trip to Ukraine at war with a visit to the port of Odessa, from where most of the 21 ships with Ukrainian grain have sailed in a month. The Russian fleet attacked the port of Odessa one day after the signing of the export agreement, breaching the pact signed in Istanbul.
The summit has been organized in record time: its celebration was announced just 24 hours before it took place. This has led to organizational chaos, especially in the joint press appearance, in which simultaneous translation and environmental conditions have failed, with very intense heat and no protection measures against possible contagion by the coronavirus. The organization has also not allowed, without giving explanations, the access of mobile phones and computers to the meeting building.
Guterres has also announced that he has already formed the UN team to investigate the authorship of the bombing that last July caused the death of more than 40 Ukrainian prisoners in a prison in Olenivka, a municipality in the Donetsk province under Russian rule. The two armies accuse each other of being behind the attack. Guterres has assured that he had discussed the issue with both parties. The investigation mission is ready, according to the Portuguese politician, and all that remains is to “guarantee their secure access so that they can collect all the necessary information and without interference.” The mission commander would be Brazilian General Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz.
Lviv’s proximity to the Polish border—an hour and a half by road—was convenient for the Turkish leader’s whirlwind visit. Zelensky, on the other hand, justified that the appointment took place in Lviv because Hersch Lauterparcht and Raphael Lemkin, the two academics who developed the legal concepts of genocide and crimes against humanity, were trained in this city. Zelensky again called for an international court to judge possible Russian war crimes. Erdogan remained impassive when listening to Zelensky’s explanations, despite the fact that the Turkish leader refuses to recognize the massacres and deportations of Armenians from the Turkish Empire in the early 20th century as genocide. This genocide was decisive in the studies of Lemkin and Lauterpacht.
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