'Turkey plays an absolutely key role in Crimea issue'
Kiev is calling on Russia to end its occupation of Ukraine to achieve stability in the region, said a top official of Ukraine's Foreign Ministry.
"Unfortunately, from what we see, the Black Sea is now not an area of cooperation, but an area of instability and this is because one of our neighbors, the Russian Federation, broke international law and invaded the sovereign country Ukraine," Oleksii Makeiev, the ministry's political director told.
Makeiev on Nov. 5 started a two-day working visit of the capital Ankara for political consultations between Turkey and Ukraine.
He said 7.2 percent of Ukrainian territory is occupied by Russia, and added that everything possible should be done for Russia to take a step back to re-establish stability and security in the region.
"It would not be possible until Russia de-occupies Crimea and stop its war against Ukraine.
"We are neighbors and there will be no stability for the countries of the region without achieving peace," he added.
Withdrawal from eastern Ukraine
About the withdrawal of Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists from the eastern Ukrainian town of Zolote, Makeiev said: "It is not going as quickly as we want."
Ukrainian troops and separatists began pulling back from the frontline town of Zolote on Oct. 29.
Ukraine has been wracked by conflict in its eastern regions since March 2014, after Russia's annexation of Crimea.
Fighting with separatists in the Donbass area has led to more than 13,000 deaths, according to the UN.
"It doesn't go smoothly enough in the areas which we have planned, but at least we have started with reconstruction work at the city of Stanytsia Luhanska, where we are about to repair a bridge -- which is very important for Ukrainians in the occupied territories to reach government-controlled territory," Makeiev said.
He added that Russia must withdraw its troops and weaponry from the territory of Donbass and "allow us to reestablish law and order together with the efforts of the international community".
Turkey plays key role
The political director said Crimea is always on the agenda of Kiev's bilateral consultation with Turkey and other countries.
"Turkey plays here an absolutely key role in the international policy of non-recognition of that occupation," Makeiev said.
Ankara does not recognize Crimea as Russian territory, along with the UN, EU, and the U.S.
He reiterated that Turkey and Ukraine are strategic partners and Crimean Tatars are a bridge in the bilateral ties.
Ankara and Kiev developed defense and business cooperation in their strategic partnership, he said.
The two countries have over 50 projects and are looking for opportunities in producing aircraft, Makeiev stressed.
"So cooperation and producing aircraft is one of the future areas of our coordination," he added.
Natural gas transit over Ukraine
About the latest developments regarding Russia's natural gas transit to Europe via Ukraine, Makeiev said there were several rounds of consultations with Russia.
"I would not say they have been very successful but what is important is that the Russian Federation realized that the new contract must be concluded on the terms of the European legal field.
"So, there will be no shadow agreements as the Russians wanted us to conclude," he said.
The Stockholm Arbitration Court obliged the Russian gas giant Gazprom to pay $2.56 billion to Ukraine's national oil and gas company Naftogaz following litigation over gas supplies and transit contracts.
"We are looking for further negotiations with the Russians and I think many countries just realized that energy is not just an asset in the hands of Russian Federation, it might be a weapon," he added.
Russia and Ukraine have been in dispute over gas issues for many years, in March 2018, on most major issues in the dispute with Gazprom, a Stockholm court found in favor of Naftogaz for overcharges made for supplies to Naftogaz.
In April 2014, Gazprom increased the gas price for Naftogaz over 80 percent within days following the Russian occupation of Crimea and in November 2015, Ukraine stopped natural gas imports from Russia.