Turkey calls for diplomatic solution to Black Sea tension

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President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has called for a diplomatic and peaceful solution to an ongoing escalation between Ukraine and Russia with a strong emphasis on the need to turn the Black Sea region into a basin of peace and cooperation as he hosted Ukrainian president Vladimir Zelensky in Istanbul over the weekend.

“We believe that the current crisis should be resolved in a peaceful and diplomatic way and on the basis of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and international law,” Erdoğan told a press conference with Zelensky after the meetings late April 10.

Zelensky’s visit to Istanbul came as the tension between Ukraine and Russia escalated over the incidents in the former’s Donbass region where pro-Russian separatist groups clashed with the Ukrainian troops. Russia has intensified its military presence along the border with Ukraine as Moscow blames Kiev for provocations. This recent escalation is triggering new alarm bells in the region after Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea.

“Our primary goal is that the Black Sea continues to be a sea of peace, serenity and cooperation. We do not want tension to rise under any circumstances in our shared geography. In this sense, I, together with my treasured friend, have exchanged each other’s views on the current situation in the east of Ukraine,” Erdoğan said. The Turkish president also expressed Turkey’s readiness to provide any support necessary to this end.

“We hope for the worrying escalation observed on the field recently to end as soon as possible, the ceasefire to continue and for the conflict to be resolved via dialogue on the basis of the Minsk agreements,” he added. Turkey strongly defended Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty,” he said, stressing, “We reaffirmed our principled stance of not recognizing the annexation of Crimea.”

Zelensky, for his part, said the positions of Kyiv and Ankara coincided on threats in the Black Sea and the response to those threats, and added that he briefed Erdogan “in detail” on developments in Donbass. “I am pleased to hear from President Erdoğan that Turkey’s current support will continue and that its ongoing stance will not change,” he said.

‘Turkish, Ukrainian cooperation not against third parties’

On the occasion of the visit, Erdoğan and Zelensky also led the ninth meeting of the Turkey-Ukraine High Level Strategic Council. Erdoğan announced that Turkey and Ukraine launched a platform with their foreign and defense ministers to discuss defense industry cooperation, but added this was “not in any way a move against third countries.” Zelensky also acknowledged the increased partnership in the field, stressing that the defense industry was the driving force behind the Turkish-Ukrainian strategic partnership.

In the meantime, Ukrainian Defense Minister Andrey Taran held a separate meeting with Defense Minister Hulusi Akar to discuss bilateral ties, and regional defense and security issues, the Turkish National Defense Ministry said in a statement.

Ankara, Kiev reiterate strategic ties

A 20-article joint declaration released after the completion of the ninth Turkey-Ukraine High Level Strategic Council reiterated the strategic nature of the bilateral ties and cooperation.

Ankara and Kyiv decided to “intensify joint efforts to deepen cooperation and coordination between the parties in the fields of economy, trade, tourism, security, defense industry, science, education and youth,” it said. The two countries will “continue cooperation in the format of ‘Quadriga” [2 + 2] at the level of ministers and coordinators,” the declaration added.

They reaffirmed “unconditional support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders,” it said.

The two sides also agreed “to continue to coordinate steps aimed at restoring the territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders, in particular the de-occupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, as well as the territories in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.”

The two also “express support for the prospect of Ukraine’s NATO membership, in particular its intention to obtain a Membership Action Plan in the near future, and to note the desire to promote interoperability of the Armed Forces of Ukraine with the armed forces of Allies.”

Hurriyet Daily News

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