Ukraine will be able to discuss the issue of NATO membership and the status of Crimea after the withdrawal of Russian troops, Zelensky said: “What status can we talk about if there is equipment here?”
Kyiv is ready to discuss with Moscow the issue of Ukraine's membership in NATO and the status of Crimea only after hostilities cease on Ukrainian territory and the Russian military is withdrawn from the country. This was stated by President Volodymyr Zelensky in an interview with Ukrainian media.
“There is a question of NATO, let's talk. There is the issue of Crimea, we understand that when there are no shots, let's move on and talk about it. This is a normal step. I think it's normal. We will talk and we must decide. But after there are no shots and the equipment is withdrawn,— he said (quote from UNIAN).
“You say, first, a neutral status, and then we will withdraw the equipment,”— Zelensky added, referring to Russia's position.— And we are talking about what status can we talk about, if there is equipment here, which of the security guarantors will sign this?»
On March 29, negotiations between the Russian and Ukrainian delegations took place in Istanbul. At the meeting, representatives of Kyiv handed over to Moscow written proposals for a political settlement, which, among other things, provide for the neutral status of Ukraine. Russia, for its part, promised a gradual de-escalation in the Kiev and Chernigov directions.
As the head of the Ukrainian delegation David Arakhamia noted, when concluding a peace treaty, Kyiv wants clear security guarantees by analogy with Article 5 of the NATO Charter (it says that an attack on one of the members of the alliance is equal to an attack on the entire alliance), then Ukraine will fix the non-bloc and non-nuclear status. According to Zelensky, the United Kingdom, the United States, Italy and Turkey expressed their readiness to become guarantors.
The Ukrainian side also offered Russia to resolve the issue of Crimea's ownership in bilateral negotiations within 15 years, and Donbas— agreed at the meeting with the president. In the proposals voiced by Ukraine, it was noted that the ownership of these regions would not be challenged by Kiev by military means; Kyiv is also ready to ensure that security guarantees do not extend to Crimea and Donbass.
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The next day after the talks, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that progress had been made in terms of ensuring a non-nuclear, non-bloc status of Ukraine and guarantees of its security “outside the framework of the North Atlantic Alliance.” He also said that the Ukrainian side at the talks demonstrates an understanding of the reality of the Crimea and Donbass. In general, Lavrov assessed the results of the talks as positive progress, but added that “this is not the final result yet.”
However, in early April, after the publication of photos and videos from the city of Bucha, which showed corpses in civilian clothes, Lavrov said that the Ukrainian side was trying to break off negotiations with Russia. The Russian military left the city shortly before, the Russian Ministry of Defense emphasized that during the time that Bucha was under their control, not a single local resident was injured. Lavrov called the publication a provocation, the purpose of which was “to divert attention from the negotiation process, to divert attention from the fact that the Ukrainian side, after Istanbul, began to play back, tried to put forward new conditions.”
Zelensky, after the events in Bucha, said that Kyiv was ready to continue discussing a peace treaty with Moscow, because “Ukraine must find peace.” The Kremlin says that Russia wants to end the military operation through negotiations, and the decision to withdraw its troops from the Kiev region was due to the desire to create conditions for them.
Ankara says that both Russia and Ukraine are ready to continue discussions in Turkey. However, according to Turkish officials, the parties are still far from reaching agreement on the status of Crimea and the Donbass republics, as well as the issue of guarantees for Ukraine.
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