Erdoğan says he will suggest Putin to find honorable exit from Ukraine
HANDE FIRAT- BRUSSELS/ANKARA
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said he will suggest Russian President Vladimir Putin to find an honorable exit from Ukraine and end the war after his return from an extraordinary NATO summit in Brussels.
“I may have a talk with Putin either this weekend or early next week. As we will make an assessment of the NATO meetings with him, we should tell him, ‘After this, you should be the architect of the moves for peace.’ We should find a way to end this by suggesting him ‘Find an honorable exit,’” Erdoğan told journalists on board a plane during his return from the NATO summit on late March 24.
Recalling that Turkey has been exerting efforts to end the war between Ukraine and Russia through a set of meetings with the two warring sides, Erdoğan informed this endeavor of Turkey for a ceasefire has proven that it can be a guarantor state for Ukraine in case the two sides can agree on a peace deal.
Erdoğan hinted that Kiev and Moscow may be flexible in compromising on four main issues including Ukraine’s neutrality and partial disarmament including the use of Russian in the country but stressed the future status of Crimea and Donbass continue to be the most important hurdle.
“[Ukrainian President Volodmyry Zelensky] made a smart move on the issue of Donbass. In a good sign of leadership, he said a referendum should take place on this issue,” Erdoğan said. Donbass is an eastern Ukraine province with the majority of Russian ethnic citizens. The region is now under the control of Russia-led separatists.
Turkey inevitable NATO ally
The crisis in Europe has shown Turkey’s importance once again and all the allies have better understood how critical the role Turkey is playing in the region, Erdoğan stated, stressing: “First of all, this crisis has displayed two things. First, the fundamental structure of European security is NATO. This is so clear. Second, Turkey is an inevitable ally of the regional security. This has been voiced during both the summit and our bilateral meetings.”
Erdoğan said Turkey would continue to fulfill its responsibility for NATO in the coming period, as was the case in the past 70 years, while welcoming the comments from the leaders of the allied countries on Turkey’s role.
US positive on F-16 sale
On a question about ongoing talks for purchasing F-16s from the United States, Erdoğan stressed that the process was improving in a positive manner between the defense ministries of the two sides. Erdoğan recalled that U.S. President Joe Biden told him that he would introduce his positive approach towards this sale to the American Congress which has to approve the deal.
“I hope, if we can accomplish the process in this direction, then we will have the opportunity to quickly finish the modernization of the F-16s we already have, and we will buy new ones as well,” he stated. Turkey has asked to buy 40 new F-16s and 80 modernization kits for its existing fleet.
On another question over an article published by the Wall Street Journal that suggested Turkey’s transfer of its Russian S-400 air defense system to Ukraine, Erdoğan reiterated that the S-400 is a done deal and a property of Turkey. “The only thing they want to do is to mess around. ‘How can we put Turkey into trouble’ is their only concern. They can’t get anywhere,” he said.
Turkey won’t impose sanctions
Erdoğan suggested that there are so many companies leaving Russia and Turkey is ready to welcome them but stressed that Turkey will not join the U.S. or the European Union sanctions against Russia. Turkey joins only U.N.-led sanctions, he recalled.
Turkey is supplying half of its natural gas demand from Russia and is cooperating for the construction of its first nuclear plant with Russia, Erdoğan stated, adding, “We can’t ignore that. When I told this to [French President Emmanuel] Macron, even he said that I am right. We have to protect this sensitivity.”
Turkey ready to further develop ties with Greece, Israel
On a question about his recent talks with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Israeli President Isaac Herzog, Erdoğan informed that Turkey was willing to further develop ties with both countries.
“We had a chance to discuss what steps we can take for the resolution of the problems in the Turkey-Greece ties,” he said, adding the two states agreed to discuss all these things directly without the involvement of third parties.
On the question of Israel, Erdoğan described Herzog’s visit to Ankara as one of the most important diplomatic activities and hinted about a potential visit by Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Benet to Turkey. “With his visit, we can start a new process on the Turkey-Israel ties. Here, of course, there is mostly the issue of what we can do together about the eastern Mediterranean. As one of the most important steps we can take together in bilateral relations, I think that the natural gas issue can come to the fore here again.”
Erdoğan said he is planning to deploy Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and Energy Minister Fatih Dönmez to Israel in the coming period to discuss all these things.
The change in the balances following the war in Ukraine can open new doors to Turkey, particularly in the field of energy, Erdoğan said, hinting that a very big development will take place soon.