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Russia-Ukraine talks "constructive" to settle conflict



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A fresh round of face-to-face peace talks between Russia and Ukraine is held in Istanbul, Turkey, March 29, 2022. (Xinhua)

MOSCOW/KIEV, March 30 (Xinhua) -- Russian and Ukrainian delegations held "constructive" negotiations in Turkey on Tuesday, raising the curtain on concrete efforts of both sides to broker a solution to the current conflict.

During the fifth round of talks, or the fourth face-to-face meeting, which lasted for about three hours in Istanbul, the two sides finally clinched some progress in exploring possible ways out of the tensions. Local media reported that consultations will continue via video link.

Some analysts believe that as talks between the two countries continue, the scale and intensity of the military conflict may well decrease gradually, while there is still "a long way to go" before a complete settlement.

STEPS TOWARDS DE-ESCALATION

Vladimir Medinsky, Russian presidential aide and head of Russia's negotiation team, said following the talks that Moscow is taking two steps towards the de-escalation of the conflict, both militarily and politically.

Russia will significantly reduce military activities in the Kiev and Chernihiv directions to increase mutual trust and create the necessary conditions for further negotiations, said Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin, who participated in the Istanbul talks.

In the political sphere, Moscow offered a possible meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky simultaneously with, not necessarily after, the initialing of a peace treaty by their foreign ministries.

For the Ukrainian side, Kiev proposed to sign a new international treaty on security guarantees, which enshrines obligations for the guarantor countries to provide Ukraine with military assistance in the event of an attack, a member of the Ukrainian delegation David Arakhamia said.

Another member of the Ukrainian delegation Mykhailo Podolyak said that Ukraine also proposed to add a clause to the security guarantee treaty that fixes the positions of Kiev and Moscow regarding Crimea for another 15 years, during which Ukraine and Russia will not use armed forces to resolve the Crimean issue, while negotiations will be underway.

"We received proposals for consideration from the Ukrainian side, a clearly formulated position, which could be included in the agreement. These proposals will be considered soon, reported to the (Russian) president. We will deliver our response," Medinsky said.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu viewed the Istanbul meeting as the most meaningful progress since the start of the negotiation process between the two countries.

"LONG WAY TO GO"

While the talks have been "constructive," Medinsky admitted that there is still "a long way to go" before reaching an agreement with mutually acceptable terms.

A gradual military de-escalation around Kiev and Chernihiv is not equal to a ceasefire, he underscored, adding that the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces will soon announce "what the slowdown or the de-escalation of the conflict in the two directions will mean exactly."

Russian troops have achieved the goals set for the first stage of the special military operation in Ukraine and will now focus on "the liberation of Donbass," Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Tuesday during a meeting with top defense officials.

Andrey Kortunov, director general of the Russian International Affairs Council, predicted that Russia will place more emphasis on Donbass and fighting will continue within the borders of Donetsk and Lugansk.

"There are still issues that require an approval ... Nevertheless, the process is underway and that's a relief," said Alexey Chepa, first deputy chairman of the State Duma Committee on International Affairs.