On Thursday, 10th march, the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers will meet in southern Turkey for a face-to-face discussions.
This is the first high-level contact between Kyiv and Moscow since Russia invaded Ukraine 2 weeks ago.
The odds of a breakthrough during the meeting between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Ukrainian colleague Dmytro Kuleba in Antalya, according to analysts, are slim to none.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has pressed for Turkey to take on a role of a mediator, has voiced optimism that the negotiations will help avoid disaster and potentially lead to a ceasefire agreement.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu will join Lavrov and Kuleba at the meeting on Thursday morning, with NATO member Turkey seeking to retain solid links with both sides despite the war.
Senior Ukrainian officials, along with the defense minister, met with a Russian group in Belarus for a series of sessions mostly focused on humanitarian matters, although Moscow did not send any ministers to the discussions.
Kuleba confirmed his plans to visit Lavrov on Thursday in a Facebook video, but cautioned that his expectations were “limited.”
The success of the negotiations, he claimed, will be determined by “what instructions and directives Lavrov is under” throughout the conversations.
“I am not pinning any great hopes on them,” he remarked, “but we will try and get the most out of the talks with effective preparation.”
The trip to Antalya will be Lavrov’s first overseas journey since Russia was alienated by the West, which imposed harsh sanctions that included President Vladimir Putin’s long-serving special envoy.
On Wednesday, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova revealed that Lavrov will join the meeting, which will take place on the margins of a diplomatic summit hosted by Cavusoglu in his hometown of Antalya.
On Wednesday, Erdogan declared, “We are working to stop this crisis transforming into a tragedy. I am hopeful that the ministerial conference would pave the path for a long-term truce.”
Turkey is a long-time supporter of Ukraine, and it has sold Bayraktar drones to Kyiv, which were developed by a company whose technical director is Erdogan’s own son-in-law.
However, it is attempting to preserve positive relations with Russia, which Turkey strongly relies on for gas imports and tourism income.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned the Russian assault as “unacceptable,” but Ankara has refused to support Western sanctions against Russia and also has declined to block its airspace to Russian planes.
According to the United Nations, the war has created Europe’s worst refugee crisis since World War II, with far more than 2 million people crossing Ukraine’s borders.
According to a German research group, sanctions imposed by the West on Russia have failed to discourage Putin from continuing his offensive. “This active neutrality succeeded in bringing Turkey to the centre of the diplomatic game,” said Berk Esen of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs.
Soner Cagaptay, a fellow at the Washington Institute, said he would be “be highly surprised” if the Antalya meetings resulted in a substantial breakthrough, with other leaders such as French President Emmanuel Macron and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett also attempting to intervene.