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Monday, December 4, 2023
Foreign AffairsWashington Post: Despite the war, Ukraine and Russia cooperate on humanitarian issues

Washington Post: Despite the war, Ukraine and Russia cooperate on humanitarian issues

Despite the ongoing war between Ukraine and Russia, both countries are “engaging in back-channel talks” to address humanitarian issues. These talks focus on the “exchange of prisoners of war, the return of dead soldiers’ bodies, and the repatriation of Ukrainian children from Russia.” Various intermediaries, including Turkey, Qatar, and the Vatican, have been involved, but “most negotiations are conducted directly.”

Away from the public eye, Ukraine and Russia are “still in communication”. The two countries, which are currently “engaged in a war”, are negotiating on a few core humanitarian issues. These include the “exchange of prisoners of war and dead soldiers’ bodies, the passage of ships from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, and most recently, the return of Ukrainian children from Russia”, wrote the Washington Post.

In some instances, intermediaries like Turkey, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, the Vatican, and the International Committee of the Red Cross have been involved. However, “most of the negotiations are conducted directly by individual representatives”. These discussions often take place in “face-to-face meetings on the Ukrainian-Russian border and in Istanbul”.

The negotiation process is “emotionally challenging”, as stated by Dmytro Usov, a Ukrainian military intelligence official. “They are the enemy, but if we talk about the negotiation process, this conflict of interest has to be overcome”, Usov said.

The Geneva Conventions call for the “exchange of prisoners of war” after fighting has ended. However, Ukraine is “eager to get its captured fighters back as quickly as possible” due to evidence of “systematic torture” documented by the United Nations.

Turkey has become a “significant place for advancing stalled negotiations.” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has “successfully cultivated ties to both Moscow and Kyiv”, acting as a conduit for Russia’s financial sector.

According to a report by Antiwar.com, Russia and Ukraine had “reached an agreement in Istanbul” as confirmed by Russian President Vladimir Putin. The “tentative agreement” would see Russia “withdraw to its prewar position” in exchange for a Ukrainian promise to “give up its NATO aspirations”. However, the deal has “not yet been finalized”.

While the back-channel talks have “not led to a resolution of the war”, they have resulted in “some humanitarian gains”. Both sides seem to “recognize the importance of these discussions”, even if they are “not keen to publicize them”. As the conflict continues, these back-channel communications “may serve as a foundation for more substantial negotiations in the future”.

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Muzaffar Ahmad Noori Bajwa
Muzaffar Ahmad Noori Bajwa
An Ahmadi Muslim from India, a senior journalist and Editor-in-chief of The Eastern Herald. Follow him on Twitter @MANooriBajwa

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