What's New(s)

What's New(s) - Peace talks - 1/04/22

What's New(s) - Peace talks - 1/04/22

What´s New(s)? La revue de presse anglophone – Erik Ruiz Martín & Nadine Vermeulen

Is there an end in sight for the horrific Russian invasion in Ukraine? The world waited in suspense when peace talks started in Istanbul on Tuesday. What is the current state of play?

I would say that the European press has been cautiously optimistic about the peace talks taking place in Istanbul. Undoubtedly the news on Tuesday, as reported by the Guardian, is that Russia has said it will drastically reduce military activity in Kyiv and Chernihiv. According to POLITICO Russia will reduce the Kyiv offensive to 'increase trust' in future peace talks. Belarusian journalist Tadeusz Giczan confirms that this withdrawal might be happening now as large numbers of armored cars with Russian flags were spotted today on their way from the Ukrainian border to Belarus. However, this new movement does not mean a ceasefire, Moscow’s lead negotiator in talks with Ukraine, Vladimir Medinsky, said to TASS news agency. María Sahuquillo and Andrés Mourenza report in El País that the latest meetings were concluded without a solid agreement, but with the most remarkable progress to date and a clear change of tune. According to Financial Times, requests include Kyiv dropping NATO pursuit in exchange for security guarantees and EU membership. The extensively used ‘denazification’ does not seem a priority anymore for Russia.

 And has there been any change in the position of EU countries after the talks?

Not really. European capitals have been very prudent in this regard and continue to keep the pressure on Russia very strong. Actually, several EU countries including Belgium, the Netherlands and Ireland on Tuesday expelled dozens of Russian diplomats, some for alleged spying, reports Reuters. Meanwhile, sanctions being implemented. The UK has confiscated its first superyacht, owned by an unnamed Russian businessman, as part of sanctions against Russia, writes the Guardian. The only one struggling to show a fierce stance against the Russian invasion seems to be Hungary. Visegrad Group meeting of defence ministers planned for this week was cancelled Tuesday after Poland and the Czech Republic pulled out over Hungary’s tepid response to Russia’s war, writes POLITICO. The great dependence on the Russian gas and the next Hungarian elections might be the reason behind that soft positioning. 

And what do experts think about Putin’s intentions, will he indeed be ready to let go Kyiv and withdraw to the East, Nadine?

Financial Times underlined that Western experts were very sceptical about Putin’s preparedness to let Kyiv join the EU, and withdrawal from the west of Ukraine. Ukraine and Western backers are “worrying that the Russian president could be using the talks as a smokescreen to replenish his exhausted forces and will actually plan a fresh offensive” wrote the newspaper. According to Jon Henley in the Guardian, it is not clear whether Russia’s promise to cut back its attacks was a genuine effort at building trust, or simply a strategic decision, now that it seems unable to swiftly take over the Ukrainian capital. Deutsche Welle writes that uncertainty exists over the fact whether the Russian military indeed already started withdrawing as a consequence of its weakened army. AP news agency says Ukraine’s military had noted withdrawals around Kyiv and Chernihiv. The Pentagon said it could not confirm. The British press asked Boris Johnson, who mentioned ‘some reduction’ in Russian bombardment around the capital, and sees this largely as a success of the Ukrainian forces. 

And the fact that the peace talks were organised in Istanbul were also an opportunity for Erdogan to put Turkey’s EU membership on the table, wasn’t it?

 Indeed Erik president Recept Tayyip Erdogan strategically positioned his country as the negotiator bringing the two sides together, urging both sets of negotiators to ‘put an end to this tragedy’ and ‘reach a solution acceptable to the international community’. For the Turkish president this also forms the occasion to pressure the EU to relaunch membership negotiations. Over a week ago on the eve of a summit focussed on the Russian invasion, Erdogan in passing asked the EU to relaunch talks with Ankara. Negotiations for Turkey’s possible accession, which already started in 2005, have stalled over tensions between the two sides. They were postponed indefinitely but the situation has now changed, wrote le Parisien. Now that the country has emerged as a pivotal player in the war, it is reviving its place in institutions like NATO, after years of tensions with Western states, writes Middle East Eye. “Please don’t wait for a catastrophe to happen in Turkey like in Ukraine”, before reopening talks about EU membership, were the words of the Turkish president quoted by Turkish newspaper TRT.