Turkey could mediate between Ukraine and Russia amid increasing tensions in the region, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said.
“It is our hope that this region does not become a region dominated by war,” Erdoğan pointed out. “Let this region walk into the future as a region dominated by peace.”
“It is our desire that the attitude in this matter develops in a positive direction. There could be a mediation about this, we will discuss this issue with them, we would like to have a share in the solution of this by developing these talks both with Ukraine and with Mr. Putin,” he added on his return from Turkmenistan.
Ukraine's military intelligence said last week that Russia had amassed more than 92,000 troops around Ukraine's borders and was preparing for an attack by the end of January or the beginning of February.
Ukraine, which wants to join the NATO military alliance, has blamed Moscow for supporting separatists in a conflict in its east since 2014.
Russia has said it suspects Ukraine of wanting to recapture separatist-controlled territory by force. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Friday that Kyiv had no such plans and Russia's rhetoric opposing Ukraine's bid to join NATO was worrying.
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.
On the other hand, Erdoğan also touched on the situation of Syrians, reiterating that Turkey hosts around 5 million refugees.
“We show them the utmost attention possible because hosting has a different place in the values of (Turks). We continue this. We are currently building single-story briquette houses in Syria’s north. This ignited motivation, and now some countries are asking that we present this project, saying that two- or three-story houses could be made,” the president elaborated.
Erdoğan also added that Turkey is working on establishing the necessary conditions for the return of Syrians to their homes. “Our Interior Ministry is following the issue closely.”
Ankara has so far spent around $40 billion (TL 274 billion) on the Syrians in Turkey, while the European Union has provided only around 3 billion euros ($3.34 billion) of a promised 6 billion euros – a gap Turkey has long demanded be closed.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s counterterrorism operations across the border in northern Syria since 2016 have also allowed hundreds of thousands of Syrians in Turkey to resettle in their homeland.
Turkey often voiced that in order to establish long-lasting stability and normalization in Syria, the return of displaced Syrians to their hometowns is just as important as the fight against terrorism.
Turkey has been building briquette houses in Idlib province that provide warm shelter for displaced Syrians.
Launched on Jan. 13, 2020, in coordination with Turkey's Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD), the "We are together, We are siding with Idlib" aid campaign received major support from other Turkish aid organizations, including from the Turkish Red Crescent (Kızılay), the Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), the Sadakataşı Association, the Türkiye Diyanet Foundation (TDV) and many more.