The signs of possible escalation around Ukraine are highly worrying, Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Önal said Tuesday.
“There is a need for decreasing tension through diplomacy and the prevailing of common sense,” Önal said in a video message sent to the Sofia security forum on the future of trans-Atlantic relations.
Saying that the forum comes at a time when the region and its vicinity are witnessing significant developments, Önal reminded the audience that NATO foreign ministers met last week in Riga and discussed the issue.
“As emphasized at the meeting, NATO should take a firm and common stance on matters of principle, maintain full solidarity and deterrence, while urging all parties to refrain from damaging and provocative actions.”
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said previously that Turkey could mediate between Ukraine and Russia amid increasing tensions in the region.
“It is our hope that this region does not become a region dominated by war,” Erdoğan pointed out on his return from Turkmenistan last month. “Let this region walk into the future as a region dominated by peace.”
In its initial response, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov dismissed Ankara's offer while speaking to journalists in Moscow, saying: “The fact is that Russia is not a party to the conflict in Donbass, it will be impossible to find solutions to the problem at such a summit.”
On the other hand, Ukraine welcomed the president’s statements.
The United States and its allies have for weeks warned that Russia may be planning an invasion of Ukraine.
Russia denies planning to invade Ukraine, but satellite pictures showing as many as 100,000 troops gathered on the border have set Western nations on edge.
Ukraine, which wants to join the NATO military alliance, has blamed Moscow for supporting separatists in the conflict in its east since 2014.
Russia sees itself as threatened by a NATO advance and wants to prevent the neighboring former Soviet republics Ukraine and Georgia from joining the alliance.
Russian forces annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in February 2014, with Russian President Vladimir Putin formally dividing the region into two separate federal subjects of the Russian Federation the following month.
Turkey, a NATO member, has criticized Moscow's annexation of Crimea and voiced support for Ukraine's territorial integrity. The United States and United Nations General Assembly view the annexation as illegal as well.
Fighting between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists in Donbass has killed more than 13,000 people since 2014, according to the U.N.
The region is one of the several sources of friction between Russia and Ukraine.
Önal underlined the critical importance of NATO’s two-track approach regarding deterrence and engagement and said that Russia’s role is highly significant in the security of the region.
“In our own experience, we have succeeded in developing a similar approach in which it is possible to find common ground or at least agree on disagreements.”
NATO member Turkey has good ties with both Kyiv and Moscow, though it opposes Russian policies in Syria and Libya. It has forged energy and defense cooperation with Russia while opposing Russia's 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimea Peninsula.
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