President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Thursday reiterated Turkey’s readiness to mediate in Ukraine’s standoff with Russia, an offer that was welcomed by his Ukrainian counterpart, promising to do everything he could to end the crisis peacefully.
Erdoğan, who has close ties with both Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladimir Putin, said Turkey was "prepared to undertake its part in order to end the crisis between the two nations that are its neighbors in the Black Sea."
"I have stressed that we would be happy to host a summit meeting at a leadership level or technical level talks," Erdoğan told a joint press conference after about three hours of talks with Zelenskyy during his visit to Kyiv.
"Instead of fueling the fire, we act with the logical aim of reducing the tensions," the president said.
Zelenskyy welcomed Erdoğan’s offer and thanked him for his "firm and consistent" support.
"I would like to thank President Erdoğan for his initiative to become a mediator between Ukraine and Russia on the way to ending the war," he said.
Erdoğan’s visit to Ukraine came after visits to Kyiv by leaders of NATO members Britain, Poland and the Netherlands.
Russia has amassed more than 100,000 troops near Ukraine’s northern and eastern borders, raising concerns that Moscow might invade again, as it did in 2014. The troop presence and uncertainty have unnerved Ukrainians and hurt the country’s economy. Russian officials deny that an invasion is planned.
Ankara has previously offered to help defuse the standoff and Turkish diplomatic sources have said both Russia and Ukraine were open to the idea.
Erdoğan has said any conflict would be unacceptable in the region and warned Russia that an invasion would be unwise.
On Thursday he underlined Turkey’s commitment to Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.
The crisis has worried Turkey, leaving it in a position where it has to balance its growing partnership with Ukraine together with its strong relations with Moscow.
Ankara, which has historic ties to Ukraine and ethnic bonds with its Crimean Tatar community, strongly opposed Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.
Turkey and Ukraine also signed eight agreements during Erdoğan visit, including a free trade agreement (FTA), dubbed "historic" by their leaders who say it will rapidly boost bilateral annual trade to about $10 billion from around $7.4 billion now.
Zelenskyy also announced a fresh deal with Turkey aimed at expanding drone production in Ukraine. He said battle-tested unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) developed by Baykar would be manufactured in Ukrainian factories.
The Ukrainian army already has dozens of Baykar-developed Bayraktar TB2 unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAV) in its inventory. Kyiv earlier also inked a contract to purchase warships from Turkey.
The land is said to have already been allocated for the project, while the drones are expected to use engines made in Ukraine.
Ukrainian forces last October used a Bayraktar TB2 drone to strike a position controlled by Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.
The supply and the use of the drones disturbed Russia, with whom Turkey also forges cooperation on defense and energy.