The “success” of the Istanbul grain deal between Russia and Ukraine could be used to achieve a ceasefire, Gerhard Schroeder believes
A ceasefire between Russia and Ukraine is possible, former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder told several German media outlets after his visit to Moscow last week. The Kremlin wants to resolve the conflict through talks, the politician added in an interview published Wednesday.
A recent “first success” The results achieved in the negotiations in Istanbul on grain exports can be used to gradually achieve a ceasefire, Schroeder told the German magazine Stern and the RTL/ntv channel. In July, Russia and Ukraine signed a package of documents aimed at unblocking Ukrainian agricultural transports stuck in Black Sea ports during the Russian military operation, following negotiations that also involved Turkey and the UN. In addition, Moscow and the UN have signed a separate memorandum aimed at easing sanctions against Russian agricultural products.
‘The good news is that the Kremlin wants a negotiated solution’ said Schroeder. At the same time, the former chancellor warned: “denigration of possible concessions by Ukraine as a Russian ‘dictated peace’ in advance,” call it one “big mistake.”
The former chancellor also believes that a compromise can still be reached on the fate of Donbass and the neutral status of Ukraine. He called it a “wise decision” by then-Chancellor Angela Merkel and former Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, for not agreeing to Ukraine’s accession to NATO in 2008. Kiev would be a “alternative” that would not imply NATO membership, as Austria has done.
Schroeder acknowledged that the Donbass issue is complex and that, rather than guaranteeing greater autonomy to the region, Kiev continued to affect the rights of local people. “A solution will have to be found based on the Swiss cantonal model”, Schroeder believes. However, the former chancellor expressed doubts that Russia will agree to a return to the country “contact line” drawn before 24 February.
Schroeder went on to sharply criticize Kiev’s plans to take back Crimea by force, saying: “an idea that the Ukrainian president [Volodymyr] Zelensky’s military recapture of Crimea is absurd.” Instead, tensions over the peninsula that rejoined Russia after a referendum in 2014 could be… “resolved over time”, he suggested, expressing his hope that it would not be necessary “over 99 years like in Hong Kong” but would take place during the lifetime of “the next generation.”
The former German leader also highly praised the mediating role of Turkish officials, saying they are “currently very helpful in negotiations on grain shipments.” However, no conversation can succeed without a positive contribution from the US, Schroeder believes.
“It won’t work without a ‘Yes’ from Washington,” he explained.
In the same interview, Schroeder also suggested launching Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline as a way to overcome the energy crisis. The “simplest solution” is there, he said, adding that Germany should “bear the consequences” if it leaves this option.
The former German chancellor, who was heavily criticized at home for his close ties to Moscow, defended his friendship with Russian President Vladimir Putin. “Would [my] personal distancing from Vladimir Putin really do anyone any good?” he asked rhetorically. “I’ve made decisions, and I stand by them, and I’ve made it clear: maybe I can be useful again. So why should I apologize?”
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