Turkey playing pivotal role in Ukraine crisis: Nuland

Turkey playing pivotal role in Ukraine crisis: Nuland

Serkan Demirtaş - ANKARA
Turkey playing pivotal role in Ukraine crisis: Nuland

A senior United States official has described the role Turkey has been playing in the Ukrainian crisis as “pivotal,” appreciating its mediation efforts between Moscow and Kiev.

“I would say Turkey’s played an absolutely pivotal role. Turkey’s been a stalwart defender of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity from the beginning. In every U.N. format, Turkey has said loudly and clearly, this is a bloody aggression, and we oppose it. Turkey has been a strong friend of Ukraine, both in terms of humanitarian support, in terms of security support,” Victoria Nuland, U.S. State Department undersecretary for political affairs, told the Hürriyet Daily News in an exclusive interview on April 4.

Nuland paid a visit to Ankara on April 4 to hold talks with her counterpart, Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Önal, and presidential adviser İbrahim Kalın.

She was also hosted by Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu.

Along with all the aspects of the bilateral ties, Nuland and her interlocutors discussed the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Recalling Turkey’s decision to implement the Montreux Convention to stop the Russian navy from passing through the straits into the Black Sea, Nuland said, “What Turkey did with regard to invoking Montreux was absolutely essential to ensure that the Black Sea couldn’t be used in this war.”

Turkey’s efforts for ceasefire good

Turkey is among the few places where Ukrainians and Russians might feel equally comfortable, and in this regard, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s calls for hosting talks between the two warring parties are positive, Nuland stressed.

“Usually, you have peace talks after there’s a ceasefire, so the fact that Russia has been unwilling to have a ceasefire, makes it more and more difficult to get the end-state and to the resolution. That said, we think it’s a good thing that both sides have stayed at the table, that they’re trying to work through the issues, they’re trying to create more clarity about where there’s overlap and where there isn’t,” she said.

There is considerable distance between the sides, the diplomat noted, adding, “What we want to see most of all and Turkey’s making this point extremely loudly, as are we, is a ceasefire.”

Putin’s war machine should not be fueled

On sanctions against Russia, Nuland said she had good talks with her Turkish counterparts about the punitive measures and the logic behind them.

“I think Turkey completely understands that we have to dry up the money that fuels Putin’s war machine and that he has to pay a high cost for what he is doing. You know, I think what’s most important, is that Turkey be very vigilant and not allow, even if it can’t join sanctions, its territory to be used to evade sanctions or to become a pool for dirty oligarch money. And I think there’s quite a bit of understanding of the risks of that in the government,” Nuland explained.

Turkey has said it will only comply with the U.N.-led sanctions, and that’s why it won’t join the West’s actions against Russia. It also underlines that it is among few countries that still can talk to Russians for reaching a ceasefire in Ukraine.

Turkey, US launch new mechanism

Nuland’s visit also meant to activate the Strategic Mechanism, a new instrument aiming to improve bilateral ties and resolve pending problems, such as the U.S. support to the YPG in northeastern Syria and Turkey’s continued deployment of the Russian S-400 air defense systems.

The beauty of the new mechanism is that it allows Turkish and American officials “to talk about all of the issues in one format,” the experienced diplomat noted.

“So we can talk about bilateral issues, whether it’s trade, whether it’s some of these irritants, whether it’s human rights and civil society, but we can also talk about regional issues, in Nagorno- Karabakh, Syria, Ukraine, and then we could talk about global issues, like, the fact that democracies now really need to stand together as the autocracies are rearing their heads, right?” she stressed.

Turkish and American sides “can really do a deep dive on all of the issues and look at where we are,” she said, stressing the new mechanism will also allow the two sides’ meetings at the ministerial and even at the presidential level.

S-400 problem on the table

On a question about the S-400s and speculations that the U.S. has tabled specific demands to Turkey to get rid of the problem, Nuland recalled that the Strategic Mechanism is “designed to help us address all of the issues both where we are working well together and some of the irritants.”

Turkey and the U.S. have been talking about this issue for a long time, Nuland underlined, stressing: “I think one of the points that are interesting in the context of this war is that Turkey gets a front row seat to see how Russian weapons perform and they are not doing super well on the battlefield, right?”

Due to the sanctions, Russia will likely be in need of resupplying itself in the near future in the field of defense industry, she

“So, it reinforces in a certain way the point that we’ve been making which is, that when NATO allies can be interoperable and their systems work together, we are stronger, and we are not dependent on countries like Russia,” Nuland said.

Expressing hope that the two sides will be able to work through the S-400 issue, the American diplomat recalled, “Turkey’s talking about wanting to have some F16s, so we’re working on those issues as well, and what’s most important is that we are working together on security issues near and far.”

Nuland also comments on the efforts by Turkey and Israel to normalize their relationship, which has already flourished hopes for revisiting energy cooperation between the two nations.

Opportunities in east Med

“First of all, it’s strongly in our interest, we believe it’s in the interest of both Israel and Turkey to have good strong relations, trade relations, energy relations. Among the things that this war highlight is the need for all countries that still have a high amount of imports of oil and gas from Russia in their mix to find ways to diversify and to diversify fast,” the experienced diplomat stressed.

There are lots of different kinds of opportunities in the eastern Meditteranean some involving Turkey’s nearer neighbors, some involving new exploration and new pipelines, Nuland suggested.

“So, we want to work with you on all of that, and we particularly want to help Turkey and its goal of diversifying away from Russian dependence,” she said.

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