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Russia sees Istanbul as ‘comfortable place’ for diplomacy with US

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Russia sees Istanbul as a “comfortable place” to conduct diplomacy with the United States, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin said

However, he added that he does not believe Washington has adopted a constructive approach in talks, the RIA Novosti news agency cited the diplomat as saying.

“Istanbul is a convenient place for such contacts,” Vershinin said.

“I can say that any contacts are useful, but, unfortunately, we do not see a constructive approach from the American side aimed at concrete results,” he added.

After talks with the Turkish side in Istanbul, Russia’s Vershinin said that Türkiye was playing a positive role in the grain deal.


“With regard to the export of fertilizers, ammonia, we must talk about the commercial component,” Vershinin said. “Russia is one of the largest producers of ammonia and other necessary fertilizers.”

Since Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, Türkiye has emerged as one of the key brokers between Russia on the one side and Ukraine and the West on the other.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan played an important role in convincing Russian President Vladimir Putin to resume participation in the U.N.-brokered Black Sea grain deal last month after a drone attack on a Russian naval base in Russian-annexed Crimea, according to diplomats.

While Moscow and Washington publicly cast each other as major threats to global stability, they have contacts on a variety of levels.

Besides the CIA-SVR talks, their embassies operate and their diplomats have contacts in Türkiye, the Federal Security Service (FSB) conducted prisoner swap talks, and their military chiefs speak at times of crisis.

Several rounds of diplomacy, including failed early peace talks, the Black Sea grain initiative, prisoner exchange negotiations, and a face-to-face meeting between Russian Foreign Intelligence Service chief Sergei Naryshkin and CIA Director William Burns, have taken place in Istanbul or the Turkish capital Ankara. These initiatives triggered speculation about back-channel talks between Moscow and Washington.

Putin said last week that the CIA meeting was requested by U.S. President Joe Biden and that the CIA-SVR contacts were continuing.

Most recently, diplomats from Russia and the U.S. met in Istanbul on Friday to discuss several technical issues in the bilateral relationship. Russian state news agencies reported Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying.

The Tass agency said the two sides discussed “difficult questions,” including visas, embassy staffing levels and the work of each side’s institutions and agencies abroad, among other unspecified issues.

Ryabkov said the meeting was between heads of departments from the Russian Foreign Ministry and the U.S. State Department, a relatively low level.

He said the two sides also spoke about issues related to visas and embassy operations.

This meeting, however, does not “signal that we are resuming dialogue with the U.S. on major issues,” Ryabkov asserted.

He said Russia remains open to direct contact with the U.S., but this is still “difficult” to achieve.

For the continuation of constructive dialogue, “necessary conditions must be created and any possible talks must be meaningful,” he added.

“Dialogue with the Americans on prisoner swaps has been and will continue directly without intermediaries,” said Ryabkov.

Both the Russian Embassy in Washington and the U.S. Embassy in Moscow have been cut back significantly in recent years in a series of tit-for-tat expulsions that have seen dozens of Russian and U.S. diplomats sent back to their home countries.

Russian foreign intelligence chief Sergei Naryshkin and U.S. Central Intelligence Agency Director William Burns met in the Turkish capital Ankara on Nov. 14 in the highest-level face-to-face contact between the two sides since Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

But at the end of November, Russia pulled out of a planned meeting in Cairo to discuss resuming nuclear weapons inspections under the framework of the New START treaty.

Moscow blamed Washington for the last-minute cancellation, saying the Russian side had had no choice but to cancel after the U.S. said it was unwilling to discuss a broader agenda of “strategic stability” at the talks.

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