Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday called for the “worrying” developments in eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region to come to an end after meeting his Ukrainian counterpart in Istanbul, adding Turkey was ready to provide any necessary support. (Reuters)
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy held more than three hours of talks with Erdogan in Istanbul as part of a previously scheduled visit, amid tensions between Kyiv and Moscow over the conflict in Donbass.
Kyiv has raised the alarm over a buildup of Russian forces near the border between Ukraine and Russia, and over a rise in violence along the line of contact separating Ukrainian troops and Russia-backed separatists in Donbass.
The Russian military movements have fuelled concerns that Moscow is preparing to send forces into Ukraine. The Kremlin denies its troops are a threat, but says they will remain as long as it sees fit.
The United States says Russia has amassed more troops on Ukraine’s eastern border than at any time since 2014, when it annexed Crimea from Ukraine and backed separatists in Donbass. On Friday, Turkey said Washington will send two warships to the Black Sea next week.
Speaking at a news conference alongside Zelenskiy, Erdogan said he hoped the conflict would be resolved peacefully, through dialogue based on diplomatic customs, in line with international laws and Ukraine’s territorial integrity.
“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,” Erdogan said. “We are ready to provide any support necessary for this.”
Major combat in Donbass ended with a truce agreed in the Belarusian capital Minsk in 2015, whose implementation France and Germany have helped to oversee. Sporadic fighting continues despite repeated attempts to implement a ceasefire.
Zelenskiy said the positions of Kyiv and Ankara coincided on threats in the Black Sea and the response to those threats, and added he briefed Erdogan “in detail” on developments in Donbass.
“We discussed in detail the issues of security and joint counteraction to challenges in the Black Sea region and it is worth noting that the visions of Kyiv and Ankara coincide both regarding the threats themselves and the ways of responding to these threats,” he said.
NATO member Turkey has forged close cooperation with Russia over conflicts in Syria, Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh, as well as in the defence and energy areas. But it has criticised Crimea’s annexation and supported Ukraine’s territorial integrity. It has also sold drones to Kyiv in 2019.
Erdogan said on Saturday that Turkey and Ukraine launched a platform with their foreign and defence ministers to discuss defence industry cooperation, but added this was “not in any way a move against third countries”.
Ukraine and Russia have traded blame for the increase in violence in the conflict, which Kyiv says has killed 14,000 people since 2014.
Erdoğan, Putin discuss Ukraine crisis, Kremlin says
resident Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin discussed the Ukraine crisis, the Kremlin said Friday.
Putin told Erdoğan that it is important to observe the current requirements of the Montreux Convention on Turkish straits amid reports on U.S. plans to bolster its presence in the Black Sea.
The United States notified Turkey two weeks ago that it planned to send two warships through the Turkish straits toward the Black Sea in line with the Montreux Convention, Turkish diplomatic sources shared Friday, adding that the vessels will remain in the Black Sea until May 4.
The move comes at a time that Russia has bulked up its military presence on Ukraine’s eastern border. “A notice was sent to us 15 days ago via diplomatic channels that two U.S. warships would pass to the Black Sea in line with the Montreux Convention.
“The ships will remain in the Black Sea until May 4,” Foreign Ministry sources said, adding that the ships are expected to arrive on April 14 and April 15, separately.
The announcement triggered an immediate reaction from Moscow, which expressed concern over the increased activity in the Black Sea, as IFAX reported Friday. “Any such movements must be in line with the Montreux Convention,” Russia expressed
The 1936 Montreux accord gives Turkey control over the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits. It also limits access to naval warships and governs foreign cargo ships.
Following these statements, dozens of troop carriers and missile launchers were positioned on flatbed wagons lining tracks running through southern Russia, in a region bordering Ukraine. Tanks are parked in columns beside the railway, which runs parallel to the M4 highway. Military trucks rumble past, heading toward the southern city of Rostov-on-Don, close to the border.
There has been a recent spike in violence in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region where Kyiv’s troops have battled Russian-backed separatist forces in a conflict it estimates has killed 14,000 people since 2014.
“We are in contact with the Americans, this is happening at a high level,” Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was previously quoted as saying by Interfax news agency. He said Moscow had rejected as “unfounded” concerns raised by Washington over the situation. He accused Ukraine of failing to implement agreements over the region. “If our American colleagues were concerned about this, it would really help stabilize the situation,” he was quoted as saying.