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No NATO aspirations and freezing occupied Crimea for 15 years: Ukrainian position at talks with Russia

Ukrainian (left) and Russian (right) delegations during the talks in Istanbul, Turkey on 29 March 2022. Photo: Anadolu Agency
No NATO aspirations and freezing occupied Crimea for 15 years: Ukrainian position at talks with Russia
Ukraine proposed abandoning its NATO course in exchange for “security guarantees” and freezing the status of occupied Crimea for 15 years at talks with the Russian delegation in Istanbul amid the 34th day of Russia’s full-blown invasion of Ukraine.

On 29 March, Ukrainian and Russian delegations met in Dolmabahçe Palace in Istanbul to further negotiate the settlement of the ongoing full-scale war unleashed by Russia across Ukraine more than a month ago. It was the fourth round of the talks. The Ukrainian delegation proposed a draft agreement enshrining Ukraine’s “NATO-like” international security guarantees instead of the country’s NATO aspirations, ceasefire, resolution of humanitarian issues.

Before the talks, Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, reportedly a “neutral negotiator,” spoke with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and members of the delegations. MP David Arahamiya took part in a tete-a-tete meeting of the heads of delegations with the Aide to the Russian President Vladimir Medinsky.

The Ukrainian delegation comprised Chairman of the Servant of the People faction Davyd Arakhamiya, Minister of Defense Oleksiy Reznikov, MPs Andriy Kostin and Rustem Umerov, officials from President’s administration Mykhailo Podoliak and Kyrylo Tymoshenko, Deputy FM Mykola Tochytskyi, diplomat Oleksandr Chaly.

The talks started with the address delivered by Turkish President Erdogan in front of the parties, in which he called Ukraine and Russia for a truce. Then the Ukraine-Russia negotiations lasted for three hours.

At an interim briefing during the talks, adviser to Ukraine President’s Office head Mykhailo Podoliak, one of the Ukrainian envoys at the negotiations, said that the parties were discussing an agreement on international security guarantees for Ukraine, the ceasefire, and the resolution of humanitarian issues in Ukraine.

The first three rounds took place in Belarus on 28 February, 3 March, and 7 March. Later the delegations worked on peace proposals on a permanent basis via video link.

Results of Istanbul negotiations according to the Ukrainian delegation

At a briefing after the Instanbul talks, members of the Ukrainian delegation announced that they have conveyed to Russia their vision of an international document that will ensure security guarantees for Ukraine. The Ukrainian negotiators assured that no agreements will be signed at the moment.

Among the possible guarantors of Ukraine’s security, the negotiators see the US, the UK, China, France, Türkiye, Germany, Canada, Poland, and Israel. There was no immediate reaction from the mentioned countries on the issue so far.

Former Deputy FM Oleksandr Chalyi said that Ukraine has also already begun consultations with all possible guarantor countries, which can be invited to multilateral talks in two weeks.

Ukraine is going to offer free accession to the agreement. If other countries would like to join it, they will be given such a legal right, according to Davyd Arakhamiya, the head of the parliamentary faction Servant of the People.

Oleksandr Chalyi called the proposed agreement “a possible diplomatic option to end the war.” The key requirement is that Ukraine’s security guarantees should be similar to NATO’s Article 5.

“If Ukraine is subjected to aggression, we have the right to demand consultations within three days. If they don’t lead to anything, the guarantor countries must help with weapons and even close the skies,” Chaly said.

If the proposals are supported, Ukraine will formalize its neutrality, non-alignment, and non-nuclear status, giving up its NATO aspirations.

In addition, under the proposed agreement, Ukraine won’t allow foreign military bases on its territory and won’t join military-political alliances. But all this doesn’t apply to Ukraine’s right to join the EU.

Currently, Ukraine has been neutral, non-aligned, and non-nuclear without any additional agreements. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s strategic course enshrined in the Constitution is gaining full membership in the EU and NATO.

According to Davyd Arahamiya, this agreement is not going to be signed in Istanbul and the negotiations with Russia will continue for at least 2 weeks.

Arakhamia believes that signing the proposed agreement would mean an end to the war and the withdrawal of troops. Then, he says, Ukraine would be holding a referendum and the guarantors would ratify the agreement.

Donbas and Crimea

“We have unresolved issues with the occupied Donbas and Crimea, so the guarantors will not work in these areas,” said Arahamiya.

The situation regarding the Donbas should be discussed by the presidents of Ukraine and Russia.

Meanwhile, regarding Crimea, Podoliak says that Ukraine proposes to conduct negotiations with Russia on the status of Crimea and Sevastopol for 15 years, while both sides would be obliged not to use armed methods to resolve the Crimean issue.

Update: In his video address, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy assured that Ukraine insists on the withdrawal of Russian troops from the occupied territories and the restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity:

“There must be real security for us, for our state, for sovereignty. For our people. Russian troops must leave the occupied territories. The sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine must be guaranteed. There can be no compromises on sovereignty and our territorial integrity,” he said.

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