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Ruth Michaelson has been following the peace talks for us from Istanbul and sends this latest dispatch from the Turkish city:
Tuesday’s talks in Istanbul signaled the first signs of progress in talks between the Russian and Ukrainian sides, despite the three-hour meeting starting late and appearing to end almost an hour earlier than expected.
russian oligarch Roman Abramovichaccompanied by the leader of the majority and head of the Ukrainian delegation David Arakhamia and deputy Rustem Umerov, retired immediately after the official talks to a luxury restaurant on a terrace of the adjacent Shangri-La hotel overlooking the Bosphorus, where Abramovich drank tea under tight security and the group appeared to continue their talks.
Abramovich and Umerov reportedly previously held a series of meetings in Istanbul alongside official negotiations under the supervision of Turkey’s presidential adviser, Ibrahim Kalin.
The meeting at the restaurant initially did not appear to include the Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podoliakwho told reporters after the talks that “the results of today’s meeting are sufficient for a leadership-level meeting”.
Ukrainian Minister of Defense Oleksei Reznikovdressed in military green, followed Abramovich, Umerov and Arakhamia to another location inside the restaurant to continue the discussions away from public view.
Ukrainian negotiators said following official talks that the sides discussed at length their demands for “security guarantees”, agreeing that Ukraine could remain “neutral” in exchange for protections equivalent to Article 5 of the NATO, that is to say the collective security guaranteed by other nations.
They also discussed the future status of the Crimean peninsula, adding that “Donetsk and Lugansk are a slightly different problem, the presidents will solve it among themselves.”
turkish foreign minister Mevlut Çavuşoğlu told a press conference that “we see with satisfaction that the two parties are getting closer at every step”.
Çavuşoğlu added that the Istanbul meeting will hopefully prompt a meeting between the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers, followed by a possible reunion of the two leaders, long a request of the president. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. “The greatest progress was made during the talks today,” he said.