President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan highlighted the necessity of maintaining calm and will maintain relations with both countries amid ongoing tensions between Russia and Ukraine as Moscow recognized the sovereignty of the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and the Luhansk People's Republic (LNR).
Speaking to reporters on his way back from Senegal on Wednesday, Erdoğan said Turkey cooperates with both Russia and Ukraine and will not halt relations or plan to impose sanctions against Moscow.
“We have political, military and economic relations with Russia. Same with Ukraine. We cannot give this up if you ask me because our country has high interests in this regard,” Erdoğan said.
He noted that Turkey aims to resolve the issue without harming relations and will conduct talks with the Turkish delegation as soon as he returns home.
Careful calculations need to be made to figure out the pros and cons of actions to be taken against Russia, Erdoğan said, noting that steps need to be taken in a delicate manner.
“Some say the conflict will boost the costs of natural gas while others discuss turning off the valves. We need to take our steps with this sensitivity in mind,” he said, adding that Turkish officials are currently in contact with Russian counterparts to arrange a meeting.
“We will continue phone diplomacy and I hope we achieve favorable results,” Erdoğan said.
The president noted that he highlighted Turkey's stance regarding Ukraine's territorial integrity to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in a recent phone call and that Turkey does not accept any actions violating the Minsk agreements.
"I told him that we are ready to undertake the responsibility to ensure that the crisis is solved through diplomacy and dialogue," he said, adding that the ongoing tensions pose a threat to security in the Black Sea.
"Our hope is for our Black Sea neighbors Russia and Ukraine to immediately return to the negotiation table," he added.
Erdoğan continued by saying that he believes the planned NATO summit is quite important in this regard, as countries will discuss measures to be taken in light of Russia’s actions. He noted that he would hold another meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin following the NATO summit.
He criticized Western leaders for their ineffective talks with Putin.
“As you know, Macron came to Moscow and you see the picture. Scholz followed him and you see that picture too,” Erdoğan said, adding that Biden was also supposed to speak with Putin, but no concrete results have been achieved so far. He noted that NATO was the only instrument left to display a common stance.
“In this videoconference meeting, NATO needs to decide on its stance and do whatever necessary,” Erdoğan said, adding that no troops have been sent to Ukraine so far, but Russia has amassed soldiers near the Ukrainian border.
“Of course, you don’t need to be an oracle to know what’s coming in the face of this picture,” Erdoğan said, adding that Turkey will display its final stance regarding the issue after the meeting.
However, the president highlighted that Turkey has already sided with Ukraine regarding Russia’s annexation of Crimea and Putin’s recent recognition by rejecting it for violating Ukraine’s territorial integrity.
NATO member Turkey, which shares a maritime border with both Ukraine and Russia in the Black Sea, has good ties with both its neighbors and has offered to mediate the crisis, while warning Moscow against invading Ukraine. Turkey has been closely following the developments and is in close contact with both Kyiv and Moscow. While forging cooperation on defense and energy, Turkey has opposed Moscow’s policies in Syria and Libya, as well as its annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014. It has also sold sophisticated drones to Ukraine, angering Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday signed decrees to recognize the sovereignty of Luhansk and Donetsk, known as the Donbass, at a televised event in which he delivered a fiery speech questioning Ukraine's right to statehood.
Putin also instructed Moscow's Foreign Ministry to establish formal diplomatic relations with the two areas held by pro-Russia rebels, which are part of the Donbass region and belong to Ukraine under international law.
Regarding his meeting with German President Frank Walter-Steinmeier, Erdoğan said he discussed a wide range of issues, including Russia-Ukraine tensions, bilateral relations, including defense industry and economic relations and the issue of irregular migration.
He noted that this was the first meeting after three years.
“We pledged to hold more meetings from now on, and hopefully we enter a different phase in Turkey-Germany relations,” Erdoğan said.