While tensions mount in pro-Russian Crimea, Davutoğlu plans to meet with officials from the new Ukrainian government
Ukraine'snew government is struggling to assert control in Kiev as tensions remain high on the Crimean peninsula, the only region in Ukraine with an ethnic Russian majority. The Ukrainian parliament voted Tuesday to send former President Viktor Yanukovych, who is believed to be in Crimea, to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. On the same day dozens of pro-Russian protesters rallied in Crimea and forced the resignation of the Kievappointed local mayor.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, speaking exclusively to Daily Sabah, commented on Turkey's stance concerning developments.
Tatars in Crimea clash with pro-Russia demonstrators
Thousands of Crimean Tatars supporting the toppling of former president Victor Yanukovych clashed with a smaller pro-Russian group yesterday in Sivastopol. Russian President Putin ordered a huge military exercise.
Moreover, several media outlets published photos of an armored personnel carrier and two trucks full of Russian troops on the streets of Sevastopol. In response to these developments, Ukraine's acting President Oleksandr Turchynov expressed concern over what he called the "serious threat of separatism."
Turkey, which is on the other side of the Black Sea, closely monitoring the growing tension in Ukraine and espicially Crimea, moreover Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu expected to visit Ukraine in next week. ''We are closely following the latest developments in Crimea, [in regard to] Crimean Tatars in Ukraine and also our ambassador is in close contact with Mustafa Abdülcemil Kırımoğlu, who is the former Chairman of the Council of the Crimean Tatar People. Stability and internal peace of Crimea, and Crimean Tatars, is one of the main principles of our policy of Ukraine,'' Davutoğlu told Daily Sabah.
In 2011 Turkey and Ukraine signed strategic partnership agreement and created a strategic council aimed at increasing economic and political cooperation. Underlining the importance of Ukraine, Davutoğlu stated, ''Ukraine is strategic partner of Turkey and also a very important strategic player in Eurasia.
Therefore for us, the stability and prosperity of Ukraine is essential. We have recently established high level strategic partnership mechanisms and we had three subsequent meetings, there is close interaction between two countries.'' Davutoğlu added that Ukraine should not be seen as a country which is psychosocially or politically divided and the unity of Ukraine is important for creating a positive atmosphere in the whole of Eurasia. ''We need to support any effort to stabilize Ukraine based on the will of the Ukrainian people and therefore we were happy when there was an agreement on Feb. 21 and we supported this. There were some differences on interpretation but at the end of the day, the decision about the presidential election that will be held in May announced. Everybody should respect the results of this election and should support stability of Ukraine. We call all the parties in Ukraine to unite and show their solidarity for the future of the country. We also call European countries to work together to consolidate democratic and economic development."
The Crimean city of Sevastopol is known as home of Russia's mighty Black Sea Fleet. Until 1954, the port was in Russian territory, but then it was transferred to Ukraine for administrative reasons. Russia is believed to be deploying military ships carrying troops in the Crimea, as Moscow continues to refuse to recognize the interim administration which has taken control in Kiev.
Due to the escalated tensions in the country, Ukraine's governmental bodies expressed their concerns on Tuesday over the signs of separatism. Some people in Crimea asked for steps to secede from Ukraine. The peninsula used to be Russian territory but was transferred in 1954 to Ukraine, which like Russia was then part of the Soviet Union.
Following the Autonomous Republic of Crimea's remarks on the separation of Crimea from Ukraine, Crimea's regional parliament gathered yesterday to discuss the political tension in the country. Pro-Russia supporters and Crimean Tatars, who supported the indivisible unity of the country, confronted each other in front of the Crimea's regional parliament.
Reuters reported that nearly 2,000 people, many of them ethnic Tatars who are the indigenous group on the Black Sea peninsula, converged on the parliament building to support the movement that overthrew Yanukovych as pro-Russian supporters called on Moscow to protect them the same movement.
The two sides that were only separated by police barricades and rallied noisily outside the Crimean parliament, which had been called to session due to the state of emergency called by pro-Russian elements late Wednesday night.
Soviet dictator Josef Stalin ordered the mass deportation of 180,000 Crimean Tatars from Crimea to Central Asia in 1944.
Crimean Tatars were rehabilitated by the Kremlin in 1957. As of 2012, there are an estimated 500,000 Muslims in Ukraine and about 300,000 of them are Crimean Tatars. In last December hundreds of Crimean Tatars have gathered in Simferopol, the capital of Ukraine's Autonomous Republic of Crimea, and expressed their solidarity with pro-EU protesters in Kyiv.
Crimean Turks oppose Russian reunification
Mehmet Akif Okur, Associated Professor at Gazi University and researcher at Ankara Strategy Institute, told Daily Sabah, "Crimea is such a significant province for the region, as it includes both the Russian and Crimean Turkish populations besides the Ukrainians and functions as a buffer zone between Russia and the European Union due to its geostrategic position." He also emphasized the importance of Crimea's Turkish community which has direct relativeness with Turkish people living in Turkey. He also stated that as many as 10 million Crimean live in Turkey, due to Russia's largescale deportations after the Ottoman Empire lost control of the province in 1774. Turkey is concerned about the Crimean Turks' security since Russia's stance towards the community is unfriendly. "Russia has a military base in the province and can make a raid easily. Russian President Vladimir Putin has already ordered the military to be ready for an operation," said Okur. Russia's preparation for military operation may be used as a pressure means for Ukraine central government he added.
He mentioned two different scenarios for the autonomous region. According to Okur, in the first scenario Crimea may distance itself from central Ukrainian government and become more independent. Yet a full independence would be such a radical decision and be opposed by Russia, even paves the way for Russian military intervention." In the second scenario, Crimea may become a part of Russia that would be a terrible decision for the Turkish community as their basic rights and freedom would be limited by Russian government" said Okur.
He added that Turkey should remember Russia's stance towards Syria despite Turkey's warnings and $38 billion dollars trade budget between the two countries. Okur said Turkey must side with Crimean Turks as a European Union candidate and told the EU that Turkey wants to see pro-Europe neighbors rather than proRussia by referring to the Syrian case. Murtaza Esenkal, deputy president of Crimean Turks Culture and Solidarity Foundation and president of Crimean Turks Foundation, said that Crimean Turks want to remain as a part of Ukraine and strictly oppose Russia's political and military intervention. He said that the Crimean Parliament wants to make a decision to return to Russian sovereignty due to historical reasons. He described the historical events in which millions of Crimean Turks were killed as genocide and added that the second genocide will happen if Crimea joins Russia. He underlined that Crimean Turks wish to remain part of the Ukraine and live autonomously in the province.