Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is headed to Turkey ahead of a meeting Thursday with his Ukrainian counterpart at a Turkish resort. Ankara, which has close ties with Moscow and Kyiv, has been seeking to mediate since Russia invaded Ukraine.
Turkey’s resort city of Antalya will be the venue for the first meeting between Lavrov and Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dmytro Kuleba, since Russia invaded Ukraine. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu will host the summit.
Senior Turkish presidential advisor Ilnur Cevik said the fact that the meeting is happening is a success in itself.
“The fact that the Russians and the Ukrainians have agreed to come to Antalya is quite an important achievement for Turkey,” he said. “They recognize Turkey as an honest broker, it seems. So, we are very happy about that, we don’t know where it will take us, but the fact that it’s happening is very, very significant.”
Russia and Ukraine have been holding talks, but the meeting in Antalya will be the highest-level Russian-Ukrainian encounter since hostilities erupted.
While Ankara has supplied Turkish-made drones and other military hardware to Ukraine, it has also opposed international sanctions on Russia.
“Turkey is a good place, actually, to mediate,” said Mustafa Aydin, an international relations professor at Istanbul’s Kadir Has University. “Turkey has developed a quite close relationship with Russia in different localities and neighborhoods of Turkey. And Ukraine has always been since its independence, one of Turkey’s closer and, let’s say, friends and allies.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who enjoys good relations with both the Ukrainian and Russian presidents, has been seeking to mediate the conflict.
While Kyiv welcomed such efforts, Moscow had rejected such moves. But Ankara’s apparent diplomatic breakthrough coincides with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s diplomatic efforts to end the war.
Columnist Selin Nasi, of Tukey’s Salom newspaper, said such mediation efforts come at an opportune time for Turkey and Israel.
“We know that both country’s leaders have been engaged in diplomacy and diplomatic efforts to broker a cease-fire between Ukraine and Russia if they can pull it off, if there is an agreement, if there is a deal,” she said. “It will be a tremendous success for the Ankara diplomacy forum, but it will also be a good start, a good kick-off, for Turkish Israeli reconciliation.”
Israeli President Isaac Herzog visited Ankara Wednesday as part of reconciliation efforts between the countries. Analysts point out that while Turkey and Israel have many differences, mediation efforts over the Ukrainian conflict underscore that they also share common interests.