Turkey ready to do its part for thaw in Ukraine-Russia tensions: Erdoğan
Expressing that Ankara supports the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, he called on all parties for restraint.
“We closely follow the challenges Ukraine is facing. As a Black Sea country, we invite all parties to be moderate and engage in dialogue in order to bring peace to the region. I emphasize once again that we are ready to do our part for peace in the region,” he said at a press conference at Esenboğa Airport before departing for Ukraine.
The president noted Russian President Vladimir Putin will also come to Turkey for an official visit after visiting China and emphasized that without holding these talks, it would not be right to think about efforts Ankara could make.
“On every platform, we express our support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty,” he stated.
“I attach special importance to the situation of our kinsmen, particularly the Crimean Tatars who are an essential part of our relations with Ukraine,” Erdoğan noted.
Bilateral relations between Ankara and Kyiv have come a long way in fields such as trade and tourism in recent years, Erdoğan said, recalling that the two countries last year set a new record by hosting more than 2 million Ukrainian tourists in Turkey.
Erdoğan chairs strategic cooperation meeting
Following an official ceremony, Erdoğan had a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and the both later chaired the 10th high-level strategic cooperation council meeting with the participation of ministers and senior officials from both sides, which also marked the 30th anniversary of diplomatic ties.
The two countries were to sign a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) after the Daily News went to print, aimed at further expanding economic bonds. Ukrainian Prime Minister Denis Shmigal on Feb. 2 said that they planned to sign 12 new agreements during Erdoğan’s visit.
The bilateral trade volume jumped 60 percent to $7.5 billion in 2021, and the FTA would be an important step to reach the $10 billion bilateral trade volume target set by the two countries, Erdoğan stated.
Ukraine and Turkey will sign a framework agreement on manufacturing Turkish drones in Ukraine, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov told a briefing ahead of a visit by Erdoğan.
Turkey sells Ukraine its Bayraktar TBT 2 combat drone, and Russia says they are used in Ukraine’s conflict with Russian-backed separatists in the Donbass region.
The president’s visit came at a crucial time when Russia has been amassing its troops on the eastern border of Ukraine. Russia and Ukraine have long been at odds over Donbass due to separatist ethnic Russians. Russia has deployed more than 100,000 troops on the border as it blames NATO and Western organizations for provoking Ukraine.
Kyiv has been battling a pro-Moscow insurgency in two breakaway regions bordering Russia since 2014 when the Kremlin annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. The conflict in eastern Ukraine has so far left more than 13,000 dead.
Turkey ready to mediate
Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun, meanwhile, said Turkey was ready to mediate between the countries in the Ukraine-Russia tension.
He reiterated that Ankara would not back down from the agreements with Ukraine. Turkey has established a cooperation with both Ukraine and Russia that serves common interests, Altun tweeted ahead of Erdoğan’s visit to Kyiv.
Erdoğan earlier expressed Turkey’s readiness to host Russia and Ukraine within the scope of mediation efforts. Ankara has invited Putin and Zelensky to Turkey for a face-to-face meeting. Turkey also attempts to hold the next meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk group between Ukraine and Russia in Istanbul.