On Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba in Turkey in the first high-level contact between the two sides since Moscow invaded its ex-Soviet neighbour last month. This meeting comes at a time when the war has entered its third week and has uprooted more than two million people. The situation is an extremely tragic one where thousands of people—both civilians and soldiers—are thought to have been killed.

Despite the widespread concern over how things are progressing, the talks between the two foreign ministers did not yield anything significant. Reports reveal that a twenty-four-hour ceasefire was discussed but Moscow refused to make any promises. This of course will make it harder to reach civilians who require assistance, including the main humanitarian priority—evacuating hundreds of thousands of people trapped in the besieged port city of Mariupol.

It appears that from Russia’s perspective, this meeting was not one where it was looking to make any concessions or accommodate humanitarian concerns, and instead viewed it as an opportunity to convey its traditional narrative and demands. Nonetheless, this meeting is still a step forward considering the two parties met at a neutral location, and the hope is that it could escalate diplomacy at higher levels in Moscow. Experts are of the view that though Russia is not yet close to achieving peace, there has been a gradual shift in its initial uncompromising posture when it came to holding negotiations.

While Ukraine has clearly stated that it is not going to surrender, it remains to be seen if it is more willing to accommodate Russia’s demands down the line as the conflict continues to take a serious toll on its civilians. While some of the demands tabled by Moscow will never be accepted by the current Ukrainian government, Kyiv’s neutrality and distancing from NATO could be the key to unlocking peace.

While Ukraine is receiving military assistance across the Polish and Romanian borders, there are concerns about how long it will be able to resist Russia’s assault, and whether Zelenskiy will be able to maintain his rule. The pressure on Moscow continues to increase by the day however as the German Chancellor and French President also demanded an immediate ceasefire during a joint call on Thursday. Interestingly enough, China’s foreign minister has also publicly described the situation in Ukraine as a “war” in what appears to be Beijing’s first official use of the word in relation to the conflict. As the war continues to intensify, countries hoping to strike a balance between the two camps will find it increasingly hard and will be forced to make their stances more definitive.