Erdoğan, Putin speak over phone amid Ukraine crisis
Turkey is ready to do its part to calm tensions in Ukraine, Erdoğan told Puti,n according to a statement by the communications directorate.
Elevating the issue to a more complex level and military confrontation will not benefit any party, Erdoğan also said.
The president also reiterated that Turkey does not recognize Russian steps against Ukraine's territorial integrity.
Previously, Turkey has expressed hope for Russia and Ukraine to return to the negotiation table amid a growing crisis between the two countries as Erdoğan has informed that he will seek to establish contact with Russian President Vladimir Putin following an online meeting of NATO leaders.
“Our wish is that Russia and Ukraine, both our neighbors from the Black Sea, return to the negotiations as soon as possible,” Erdoğan told journalists on his return from Senegal early Feb. 23.
Erdoğan recalled he had talked to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier about the recent escalation on the Russian-Ukraine border following Moscow’s recognition of two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine.
“I have underlined [to Zelensky] that we will never accept any attempt to violate the Minsk Agreement. I have also told that we are ready to do our share in order to avoid further escalation and solve the problem through dialogue,” Erdoğan said.
NATO leaders will meet at an online emergency meeting on how the alliance would respond to the Russian violation of international law and defying Ukraine’s sovereignty.
NATO should decide on Ukraine
Erdoğan recalled that earlier attempts by French and German presidents failed and that no meeting between Putin and U.S. President Joe Biden could be realized to de-escalate tension. “If we look at the situation from the perspective of a state or an institution, there is only NATO left. NATO should determine its approach through this virtual meeting. It should do whatever needs to be done,” he said.
The NATO countries have not ruled to deploy troops to Ukraine and Russia has a massive military deployment on the Ukrainian border, Erdoğan said, adding, “Of course, one does not need to be a prophet to predict what the result might be in the face of this picture. In this regard, let’s see what the leaders of NATO allied member countries will say in this video conference. Of course, we will determine what we will say according to what they will say, and we will reveal our approach.”
He also said that Turkey attaches huge importance to the NATO meeting.
Erdoğan urges caution
With the continued escalation, one needs to be more cautious and sensitive, Erdoğan warned, criticizing those who are linking the ongoing crisis with the supply of natural gas and consequently the rise in the energy prices.
“We are running a state here, we should preserve our common sense. We should take our steps in this sensitivity,” he said, informing about Ankara’s efforts to create a communication between him and Putin. He said it will be better for him to talk to Putin following the alliance meeting.
Turkey has unique ties with Ukraine, Russia
On a question how Turkey’s ties with Ukraine and Russia would be influenced in case of further escalation, Erdoğan said: “We cannot give up on both. We have political, military and economic relations with Russia. We also have political, military and economic relations with Ukraine. If you say ‘Give up on Ukraine’, we cannot give up, because our country’s interests here are very advanced. If you say, ‘Give up with Russia,’ we cannot give up on it either, because we have really advanced relations with it right now.”
Therefore, Turkey is exerting efforts to resolve the problem without scarifying its relations with Russia or Ukraine, the president said, underlining that Ankara will determine its policy following the NATO summit.
German president welcomes Herzog’s visit
On a question about his phone conversation with Steinmeier, Erdoğan said they discussed the regional and bilateral developments as well as ongoing cooperation on the migrant problem.
The conversation covered Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s confirmed visit to Turkey on March 9 and 10. “A new era will begin on Turkey-Israel ties with Herzog’s visit. Mr. Steinmeier expressed his satisfaction about it and described the visit as a right move,” Erdoğan said.
“We have also discussed the developments in the Gulf and our trip to the United Arab Emirates. We have discussed that this could bring a new momentum in the Gulf,” he added.
Borders with Armenia can be opened
On the Turkish-Armenian normalization efforts, Erdoğan said he and Steinmeier also discussed the dialogue between Ankara and Yerevan.
“This region needs peace, stability and prosperity. We have engaged with Armenia for a normalization process with this understanding. Azerbaijan President Ilham [Aliyev] finds it useful, too. We are also content with the will displayed by Armenia for the normalization,” he said.
The two countries’ special envoys will come together on Feb. 24 in Vienna in the second leg of the talks, Erdoğan informed. “We know that Armenia has concrete expectations for the opening of the borders and establishment of the diplomatic ties. If Armenia continues to remain committed to the process with us, it’s out of the question for us to keep the borders closed,” he vowed.