Conflict With Russia || Turkey Pledges Diplomatic Assistance To Ukraine

There are growing concerns that Russia might invade Ukraine. Now Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has offered himself as a possible peace broker.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has assured Ukraine of his support in the effort for peace in the face of growing tensions on the border with Russia. “We believe that the current crisis must be resolved on the basis of the integrity of Ukraine and international law using peaceful and diplomatic methods,” said Erdoğan after a three-hour meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyj in Istanbul.

“We are ready to provide any necessary support for this,” said Erdoğan, who has close ties with both Ukraine and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Erdoğan described the recent escalation of the conflict, which involves Russian-inhabited areas in eastern Ukraine, as worrying. In the past few weeks Russia has ordered around 4,000 additional soldiers for an alleged maneuver on the border with Ukraine. The Kiev government believes Russia is looking for an excuse for a large-scale military operation.

The soldiers’ march brings back memories of the Russian occupation of the Crimea peninsula in 2014, which the Turkish president had condemned at the time. During the meeting with the Ukrainian President Erdoğan recalled: “As Turkey we have strongly defended the integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine. We have once again confirmed our decision in principle not to recognize the occupation of Crimea.”

US President Joe Biden also promised Ukraine aid last week should Ukrainian integrity be jeopardized. According to Turkish information, two US warships are currently being relocated to the Black Sea.

Turkey is considered to be the traditional protecting power of the Crimean Tatars minority, who make up around 10 percent of the Crimean population. Most of them were opponents of the annexation at the time. The international community has not recognized Russia’s occupation and continues to see Crimea as part of Ukraine. The EU and the USA, among others, have imposed sanctions on Russia because of the annexation.

The chairman of the Christian Democrats in the European Parliament, Manfred Weber, has already called for new sanctions against Russia in the event of an “escalation”. The Russian troop deployment around eastern Ukraine is a test for the West. “The answer to that must be clear and strong,” Weber told the newspapers of the Funke media group.

“The EU and the USA must show politically what the Russian leadership is getting into if they let the situation in eastern Ukraine escalate or march in there.” In that case, a widespread freeze of oligarch accounts or Russia’s separation from the Swift payment system must be real, Weber said. The further construction of the Nord Stream 2 Baltic Sea gas pipeline would then no longer be sustainable. “

At their meeting in Istanbul, Zelenskyj and Erdoğan agreed, according to the Ukrainian President, on closer cooperation in the arms sector and aircraft construction. Ukraine had already bought Turkish Bayraktar combat drones in the past. In addition, the two heads of state agreed to strengthen economic cooperation, which should lead to a free trade agreement.

Russia is ready to intervene

Since 2014, areas around the Ukrainian cities of Luhansk and Donetsk along the Russian border have been under the control of rebels loyal to Moscow, whom Russia has supported with weapons and logistics in the past. New reports of massive Russian troop movements towards the Ukrainian border had recently sparked international concern. Chancellor Angela Merkel is also trying to persuade the Russian President to de-escalate the situation. In a telephone conversation with Putin last week, she called for the “dismantling of these troop reinforcements”.

Putin, on the other hand, says Ukraine is responsible for “provocative actions” in the border region that “deliberately aggravate the situation at the front.” The Russian troop movements served to protect Russian citizens, which is why the country is ready to intervene. More than 3.5 million people live in the area ruled by the separatists, 400,000 of whom have Russian passports.

The civil war in eastern Ukraine has killed more than 13,000 people since the conflict began, 50 of them this year alone, despite an official ceasefire. A peace plan from 2015 has not yet been fully adhered to by either side.

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