Ukraine’s top negotiator predicts when peace talks could resume
Ukraine could restart peace talks with Russia – from a favorable position – in late August, the country’s lead negotiator, David Arakhamia, has said.
“We don’t want to share our plans with the Russians because they could see them in open sources. But I think we will conduct counteroffensive operations in certain areas,” Arakhamia, an MP, told US state-run Voice of America on Friday.
He added that “a minimally viable agreement” would see Russian troops leaving the territories they seized after February 24, when Moscow launched its large-scale offensive in Ukraine.
“We will never accept the loss of territory. It’s legally impossible. But we could consider a political agreement, similar to the one we tabled in Istanbul.”
During the talks in Turkey in late March, the Ukrainians proposed that Kiev and Moscow hold negotiations on the status of Crimea within the next 15 years, while Ukraine promises not to seize the peninsula by force. Crimea voted to leave Ukraine and join Russia shortly after the 2014 coup in Kiev.
The talks have since stalled. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in May that his country will begin negotiating again only after it recovers land lost after February 24. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Rudenko said that statements such as this make Moscow question whether Ukraine wants a peace settlement at all.
In an op-ed published by Foreign Affairs magazine on Friday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba argued that, with enough heavy weapons from the West, Ukraine could defeat Russia and take back its land.
He also urged the West not to suggest “unacceptable” peace terms for Ukraine.
Russia attacked Ukraine following Kiev’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German- and French-brokered protocols were designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.
The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.