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Top Russian, Ukrainian diplomats meet for first time since invasion

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Russia and Ukraine‘s foreign ministers meet in Turkey on Thursday in the first high-level talks between the two countries since Moscow invaded its neighbour, with Ankara hoping they could mark a turning point in the conflict, according to Reuters. 

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has tempered expectations for a ceasefire agreement or other results from the meeting with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

Television footage showed the Russian and Ukrainian delegations sitting at tables facing each other, either side of a delegation headed by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

Russia’s invasion has uprooted more than 2 million people in what the United Nations calls the fastest humanitarian crisis in Europe since World War Two.

Ahead of the talks, Kuleba urged Lavrov to approach them “in good faith, not from a propagandistic perspective.”

“I will say frankly that my expectations of the talks are low,” Kuleba said in a video statement on Wednesday. “We are interested in a ceasefire, liberating our territories and the third point is to resolve all humanitarian issues.”

Moscow has said that all of its demands – including that Kyiv takes a neutral position and drops aspirations of joining the NATO alliance – must be met to end its assault.

Delegations from the two countries have held three rounds of talks previously, two in Belarus and one in Ukraine. Despite some positive signs on humanitarian arrangements, those negotiations have had little impact.

Moscow calls its incursion a “special military operation” to disarm Ukraine and dislodge leaders it calls “neo-Nazis.” Kyiv and its Western allies dismiss that as baseless pretext for an unprovoked war against a democratic country of 44 million people.

Thursday’s meeting took place on the sidelines of a diplomacy forum in Turkey’s southern province of Antalya.

Turkey, which shares a maritime border with Russia and Ukraine in the Black Sea and has good ties with both, has called Russia’s invasion unacceptable and appealed for an urgent ceasefire but has opposed sanctions on Moscow.

While forging close ties with Russia on energy, defence, and trade, and relying heavily on Russian tourists, Turkey has also sold drones to Ukraine, angering Moscow.

Cavusoglu said both Lavrov and Kuleba had requested that he attend the talks on Thursday, adding he wished the meeting could be a “turning point”.