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Ukraine floats Canada as security guarantor at peace talks. Here’s what’s happening

Click to play video: 'Russia says it will scale back military operation around Kyiv; Ukraine wants “full peace” before final treaty'
Russia says it will scale back military operation around Kyiv; Ukraine wants “full peace” before final treaty
Russia's Deputy Defence minister, Alexander Fomin, said on Tuesday that Russia would sharply scale back military activity around Ukraine's capital Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv, in the most tangible sign yet of progress towards a peace deal, as the two sides met in Istanbul in an effort to find an end to the war. The head of Ukraine's delegation for negotiations with Russia said the country wants "full peace" before any final treaty would be agreed to – Mar 29, 2022

Ukraine proposed accepting neutral status and floated Canada as a potential security guarantor at peace talks with Russia in Turkey on Tuesday.

Talks have been ongoing throughout the conflict, which began on Feb. 24 when Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his troops into the country, but have yet to produce any breakthroughs.

Read more: Russia says no breakthroughs in Ukraine peace talks. Here’s what you need to know

Yet with Russian forces bogged down in Ukraine, new hopes emerged for peace at the latest round of in-person talks in Istanbul.

Here’s what you need to know:

Ukraine pitches neutrality, Russia to reduce forces near Kyiv

Ukraine proposed accepting neutral status in exchange for security guarantees at the talks, meaning it would not join military alliances or host military bases, Ukrainian negotiators said Tuesday.

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The proposals also include a 15-year consultation period on the status of annexed Crimea and would only come into force in the event of a complete ceasefire, the negotiators told reporters in Istanbul.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu (C) gives a thank you speech during the peace talks between delegations from Russia and Ukraine at Dolmabahce Presidential Office in Istanbul, Turkey on March 29. Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The fate of the Donbas region, which Russia demands Ukraine cede to separatists, would be discussed by the Ukrainian and Russian leaders, they added. Any peace deal would require a referendum in Ukraine.

The Russian delegation said it would study and present the proposals to Putin.

Furthermore, Russia promised to drastically cut its military activity focused on Kyiv and Chernihiv, its deputy defence minister said on Tuesday, after talks between the two sides.

Canada floated as security guarantor

Ukrainian negotiators included Canada in a list of potential countries that could be its security guarantors under a potential agreement, negotiators said.

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Ukraine envisions security guarantees along the lines of the NATO military alliance’s Article 5, its collective defence clause. Poland, Israel, Turkey and Canada could be among the potential security guarantors. Russia, the United States, Britain, Germany and Italy could also be involved.

Click to play video: 'UN chief calls for humanitarian ceasefire in Ukraine: “It will save lives”'
UN chief calls for humanitarian ceasefire in Ukraine: “It will save lives”

“If we manage to consolidate these key provisions, and for us, this is the most fundamental, then Ukraine will be in a position to actually fix its current status as a non-bloc and non-nuclear state in the form of permanent neutrality,” negotiator Oleksander Chaly told reporters.

“We will not host foreign military bases on our territory, as well as deploy military contingents on our territory, and we will not enter into military-political alliances. Military exercises on our territory will take place with the consent of the guarantor countries.”

Ukraine asks Russia to drop opposition for it to join EU

Ukraine also asked Russia to drop its opposition for the nation’s desire to join the European Union, Moscow’s top negotiator said.

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Vladimir Medinsky made the comment on state television after the talks wrapped up.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak (C) speaks to the press after first Russia and Ukraine face-to-face talks in weeks at Dolmabahce palace in Istanbul on March 29 to end the nearly five-week-old war which has killed an estimated 20,000 people. Yasin Akgul/AFP via Getty Images

Throughout the conflict, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has pleaded for the EU to allow Ukraine to join the bloc, a move Russia was not in favour of.

Zelenskyy signed an official request to join the bloc earlier in the war, and delivered a speech to the EU that was so stirring it caused the official translator to choke up with emotion.

Istanbul talks mark most significant progress yet: Turkish foreign minister

The talks in Istanbul were the most significant in the conflict to date, the country’s foreign minister said.

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Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey welcomed the two countries reaching compromise and a common understanding on certain issues, and said the war must end quickly.

Click to play video: 'Is Russia’s strategy shifting to split Ukraine apart?'
Is Russia’s strategy shifting to split Ukraine apart?

He also said that “more difficult issues” were expected to be discussed between Ukrainian and Russian foreign ministers at a later date, and that the leaders of the two countries could meet at a later date.

A second round of talks originally scheduled for Wednesday will no longer happen, the Turkish foreign ministry later said.

Read more: Russia scaling back military operations near Kyiv: deputy defence minister

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was not so optimistic about the talks, saying Washington has not seen “signs of real seriousness” from Russia in pursuing peace.

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It’s up to Ukraine to characterize whether there was real progress in the talks, but added the U.S. is focused on Russia’s actions, not its words, he said.

Russia says talks still have a long way to go

Despite the apparent positivity emerging from the negotiations, the talks to end the war still have a long way to go, Medinsky said.

In an interview with state media, he said Russia’s decision to scale back its operations around Kyiv and northern Ukraine isn’t a ceasefire.

Firefighters continue to cooling works at a completely destroyed logistics warehouse, where approximately 50 thousand tons of food became unusable, after it was hit by Russian shellings on March 13 in Brovary district of Kyiv, Ukraine on March 29. Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

“This is not a ceasefire but this is our aspiration, gradually, to reach a de-escalation of the conflict at least on these fronts,” Medinsky said, adding Moscow agreed to a possible meeting between Putin and Zelenskyy once peace was reached.

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“However, to prepare such an agreement on a mutually acceptable basis, we still have a long way to go,” he said.

— with files from Reuters.

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