Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Saturday that he’s ready to hold high-level peace talks with Russia, flagging Jerusalem as a possible location and expressing hope that Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett could help broker a deal.
Zelensky told foreign reporters at a briefing in Kyiv that holding lower-level technical negotiations in Belarus, Russia, or Ukraine would be “unconstructive,” calling instead for a “meeting of leaders,” potentially in Jerusalem.
He took a positive view of Bennett serving as a mediator between the warring sides and called for Israel to be among the security guarantors for Ukraine.
“We are generally positive,” Zelensky said of Bennett’s role as peace broker. “I am personally positive about anyone’s mediation … But I don’t call Bennett ‘anyone’ because I think he can play an important role,” adding that, “it is very good to have such mediation.”
Bennett, acting at the request of Ukraine, met with Russian President Vladimir Putin last Saturday and has since spoken by phone several times with both the Russian leader and Zelensky.
Moscow has said little about Bennett’s mediation efforts, but Putin struck an optimistic note on the several rounds of technical negotiations between Ukrainian and Russian delegates in Belarus, saying he saw a positive shift in the discussions.
“There are certain positive developments there, as the negotiators from our side reported to me,” Putin said on Friday at a meeting with his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko, according to Russian state news agency Tass.
Putin did not provide further details, saying only that he would “talk about all of this later.”
High-level talks held on Thursday in Antalya, Turkey, between the foreign ministers of Russia and Ukraine ended with no progress on a 24-hour ceasefire to allow for the safe evacuation of civilians from besieged cities.
Commenting on the several rounds of Russia-Ukraine technical negotiations that have taken place thus far, Zelensky said no substantial progress had been made because of “ultimatums” from the Russian side that were unacceptable to Ukraine.
By Tom Ozimek