Turkish president aims to bring Ukrainian, Russian counterparts together

Erdogan says Ankara is open to becoming a guarantor state for Ukrainian security, but says details should be clarified.

Turkish president aims to bring Ukrainian, Russian counterparts together

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday said he was determined to hold talks with Ukrainian and Russian leaders and bring them together to put an end to the bloodshed.

The Turkish leader’s remarks came before his flight to Turkiye from Uzbekistan, where he held a two-day visit to boost bilateral ties.

Erdogan spoke about the Russia-Ukraine war, Turkiye’s position, and mediation efforts for lasting peace, as well as energy ties with Israel.

"I believe the meetings held by the Russian and Ukrainian delegations in Istanbul helped the peace process gain meaningful momentum. The Russian decision to significantly reduce military operations in Kyiv and Chernihiv is truly an important step," Erdogan said.

Stressing that he was resolute to hold talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, he said he would tell his counterparts that the ultimate goal of Turkiye was now to bring them together.

"We are ready to host a meeting at the presidential level. However, it is of great importance to ensure a temporary cease-fire," Erdogan said, adding that Ankara's active diplomacy and balanced approach enabled it to host negotiations in Turkiye.

Erdogan also stressed Turkiye’s possible role as one of the guarantor states for Ukrainian security, saying Ankara was open to becoming a guarantor country, while the details should be clarified.

Turkiye continues opposition to sanctioning Russia, instead prioritizes standing against Russia's military moves and continuing the dialogue, Erdogan added.

"This dialogue is important, necessary, not only in the context of Ukraine but also in many other geographies concerning us closely, such as Syria, Libya, the South Caucasus," Erdogan said.

Another point Erdogan stressed was the participation of Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich in the Russian and Ukrainian delegations’ meetings in Istanbul.

"Abramovich, on the other hand, participated in the negotiations as a member of the Russian delegation. ... If Russia and Putin preferred to include Abramovich in their own delegation, then (they) believed, trusted him. We greeted him as we did with everyone else at the meeting. I wish success to all the members of the delegation participating in these efforts. I hope we will see the results of these efforts as soon as possible," he said.

Turkiye's peace-favoring approach to the Ukraine-Russia war and balanced foreign policy have gained the appreciation of the international community, Erdogan said, and noted that NATO members had a positive approach towards Turkiye, as he witnessed during the recent Extraordinary Leaders' Summit of the alliance.

He further noted that many leaders at the summit acknowledged Turkiye's responsibility and mediation efforts to resolve the war through peaceful means, while several NATO and EU leaders, especially following the talks in Istanbul, adopted a different view of his country.

Russia's war against Ukraine, which started on Feb. 24, has met international outrage, with the EU, US, and UK, among others, implementing tough financial sanctions on Moscow.

At least 1,232 civilians have been killed in Ukraine and 1,935 injured, according to UN estimates, with the true figure feared to be far higher.

More than 4 million Ukrainians have also fled to neighboring countries, with millions more displaced inside the country, according to the UN refugee agency.

He also talked about Turkish-Israeli collaboration in the energy field, voicing hope for Israel's energy exports going through Turkiye, and said he will hold talks with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to take immediate steps.

One of the main topics Erdogan and his Israeli counterpart Isaac Herzog tackled during the latter's visit to Turkiye on March 9 was the collaboration in the field of energy, and both countries were once close to reaching a deal in this regard during the rule of the former premier, Benjamin Netanyahu, however, things turned upside down all of a sudden, according to the Turkish president.

"The route Israel considers for energy exports is unfavorable given the cost. I mean, building pipelines from Israel to Greece under the sea, distribution (of oil) to Europe (through that route), this surely is not feasible," he said.

Erdogan also said that while this does not stand as an applicable plan, the cost calculations point to Turkiye as the best option to export the Israeli gas, and noted that the Israeli side was already discussing this issue and seeing Turkiye as the best route for energy transfer.

Responding to a question on the tension between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the Karabakh region, Erdogan said the armed Armenian elements should be removed from the internationally recognized territories of Azerbaijan under the 2020 trilateral declaration.

"Azerbaijan fully complies with the provisions of the trilateral declaration. So, there is no Azerbaijani violation. There was a defensive retaliation as Azerbaijan was attacked," he said.

Clashes erupted on Sept. 27, 2020, with the Armenian army attacking civilians and Azerbaijani forces and violating several humanitarian cease-fire agreements.

During the 44-day conflict, Azerbaijan liberated several cities and around 300 settlements and villages that had been occupied by Armenia for almost 30 years.

The fighting ended with a Russian-brokered agreement on Nov. 10, 2020, which was seen as a victory for Azerbaijan and a defeat for Armenia.

Despite the cease-fire agreement, Armenian forces periodically fire on positions of the Azerbaijani army, according to the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry.

Hüseyin Demir

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