Turkey can mediate in a standoff over Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station, which is occupied by Russian troops, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Saturday, Agence France-Presse reported.
“President Erdoğan stated that Turkey can play a facilitator role in the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, as they did in the grain deal,” the Turkish presidency said.
Ukraine, one of the world’s largest grain exporters, was forced to halt almost all deliveries after Russia’s invasion in February, raising fears of a global food crisis.
Exports of grain across Black Sea ports resumed under the deal signed in July by Kyiv and Moscow with the United Nations and Turkey as guarantors.
Last month, Erdoğan warned of the danger of a nuclear disaster when he visited Lviv for talks with his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky.
“We are worried. We do not want another Chernobyl,” the Turkish leader had said.
There has been growing alarm over the safety of Europe’s largest nuclear plant, Zaporizhzhia, which is under Russian control.
Ukraine on Friday said it bombed a Russian base in the nearby town of Energodar, destroying three artillery systems as well as an ammunition depot.
A team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) visited Zaporizhzhia, with the UN nuclear watchdog’s chief, Rafael Grossi, saying the site had been damaged in the fighting.
During the call with Putin, Erdoğan noted Russia’s “constructive role” in organizing the IAEA mission, according to the Kremlin.
Turkey, which has friendly ties with both Moscow and Kyiv, has supplied Ukraine with drones and refused to join Western sanctions against Russia.
French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday defended his policy of keeping up a dialogue with Russia, saying that Turkey should not be the only power talking to Moscow.
Before meeting with Zelensky, Erdoğan met with Putin in Sochi where the two countries pledged to boost their economic cooperation.
The Kremlin said Saturday the two leaders confirmed “the intention to expand trade and economic ties, including the promotion of joint strategic projects in the energy sector.”
Erdoğan and Putin agreed to talk further in Samarkand on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit on Sept. 15-16, according to the Turkish presidency.
The Turkish leader also passed on his condolences for the death of the last leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, in the first such reaction from Ankara.