Turkey continues to do its best to de-escalate tensions between Russia and Ukraine, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said Friday, underlining that the continuation of dialogue and diplomacy is a common will.
Addressing Turkish reporters after a NATO meeting in Brussels, he said that the region is passing through a sensitive and critical period. "A meeting with NATO defense ministers was held for two days in such a period. At the meeting, defense and deterrence issues on the agenda of the alliance, especially Ukraine, were discussed, and both regional and global developments were evaluated," he said.
Stating that Turkey, like other NATO countries, has been following developments regarding the Ukrainian crisis with concern, Akar said: "It is our common wish to maintain diplomacy and dialogue and reach a solution in this way. We have emphasized it and continue to do so. The territorial integrity and sovereignty of both Georgia and Ukraine are important to us. As our President (Recep Tayyip Erdoğan) has stated, we, as Turkey, have done our best to defuse the tension and we continue to do so."
Noting that there is a status quo in the Black Sea, maintained by the Montreux Convention, Akar said: "With this status quo, there is balance, security and stability. We have stated at every opportunity that this is of vital importance, and we continue to do so."
When asked whether there is a plan to play a more active role in the region with Turkey's view on the Ukraine crisis, the minister replied: "Our stance on this issue has been very clear from the very beginning. It has been expressed at the highest level, starting with our president, at the ministerial level, and in meetings between other delegations. From the very beginning, we have said, 'We are against the occupation of Crimea.' We said that we support the territorial integrity of Ukraine, and we continue to say it. We are in favor of solving the tension in the region with a common good and balanced approach, and in this sense, it is our sincere wish that the countries bordering the Black Sea live in peace, dialogue, tranquility and prosperity."
Turkey has always backed an approach to ebb tensions in the Black Sea, Akar explained: "We talk about what needs to be done so that the tension does not escalate further and we make suggestions. We present our views and suggestions on this issue and share them with our allies. We express that actions and discourses that escalate tensions should be avoided and actions and discourses should be well consulted. Under the leadership of our president, we, as Turkey, have done and continue to do whatever political, humanitarian, legal and legal actions are required."
Emphasizing that they follow the developments closely, Akar said Turkey has taken and will continue to adopt whatever measures are needed depending on the situation.
Stating that Turkey is the country with the longest coast on the Black Sea, the minister added: "It is in everyone's interest that all parties carry out their activities with calm, cooperation, consultation and dialogue."
Most recently, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on Wednesday held separate phone calls with his Russian and Ukrainian counterparts and reiterated Turkey's readiness to host a meeting between Moscow and Kyiv to de-escalate tensions.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is in favor of a trilateral meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkey, Erdoğan had also said earlier in the same day.
Putin has accepted Erdoğan’s invitation to visit Turkey amid the tensions and will make the trip once the pandemic and schedules allow, the Kremlin said.
Erdoğan also recently visited Kyiv and held talks with Zelenskyy. The Turkish president reiterated that Turkey stands by its decision not to recognize the annexation of Crimea and declared Ankara's support for Ukraine's Crimean Platform initiative.
Turkey shares the Black Sea with Ukraine and Russia. 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, thus angering Russia.
The Russian military movements have fueled 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.