The US believes there may be room for a diplomatic solution to the conflict in Ukraine as fighting slows down due to the winter cold, NBC reported on Wednesday citing multiple officials familiar with the matter.
US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan was reportedly “testing the waters” for diplomacy during his visit to Kiev last week.
Sullivan broached the idea of negotiating an end to the conflict, NBC reported, citing two people familiar with his meetings in Kiev and one Ukrainian official, all anonymously. Officially, the White House said his visit was meant to “underscore the United States’ steadfast support to Ukraine and its people.”
According to the outlet’s sources, the US increasingly believes neither Moscow nor Kiev can achieve all of their goals, and that the winter may present an opportunity for talks, possibly mediated by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“The potential for talks, we would like to see that happening,” said one unnamed Western official described as having direct knowledge of military operations. “In the winter everything slows down.”
According to the Ukrainian official, Sullivan told President Vladimir Zelensky that Ukraine would have more, not less, leverage if it declared it was ready to negotiate.
While not pressuring Ukraine into anything, Sullivan said it would be easier to maintain Western support if it were “perceived as being willing” to engage in diplomacy, he added, as per the report.
On Tuesday, Zelensky announced a list of Ukraine’s terms for ending the conflict, which include prosecuting Russian “war criminals” and Moscow paying reparations, in addition to “restoring Ukraine’s territorial integrity,” presumably referring to its pre-2014 borders. On Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov pointed out to reporters that Zelensky signed a law in October banning any negotiations with Russia while Vladimir Putin is president.
“We are still open to negotiations, we have never refused them, we are ready to conduct them – taking, of course, into account the realities being established at the moment,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said during a briefing in Moscow on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Russian troops have begun withdrawing from parts of Kherson, which US and Western officials told NBC might encourage Ukraine – but discourage Russia – from sitting down at the negotiating table.
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