Russian President Vladimir Putin meets Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in September
Istanbul (AFP) – Turkey called Tuesday for a ceasefire in Ukraine, just days before the leaders of Turkey and Russia meet in the Kazakh capital Astana.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has won acclaim for securing a grain deal as well as a prisoner exchange between Russia and Ukraine, has long sought to bring Kyiv and Moscow for truce talks that neither side particularly wants.
Turkey’s invitation comes ahead of a meeting scheduled for Thursday between Vladimir Putin and Erdogan, who has a good working relationship with the Russian president despite disagreements on many issues including in Syria.
NATO member Turkey, which has remained neutral throughout the conflict in Ukraine, also enjoys good relations with Kyiv.
But the increasing Russian attacks on Ukrainian cities are reducing the chances of a diplomatic solution that Ankara has been craving since the war began in February.
“Unfortunately (both sides) have quickly moved away from diplomacy” since talks between Russian and Ukrainian negotiators in Istanbul in March, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in a television interview.
“As the Ukrainian-Russian war continues, unfortunately, the situation is getting worse and more complicated,” added the Turkish diplomat, who called for an immediate ceasefire.
There must be a ceasefire as soon as possible. He said: The more the better.
– Viable ceasefire –
The Kremlin confirmed that Putin will meet Erdogan in Astana on Thursday.
“Preparations are underway for the meeting,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
He said the talks would be an opportunity to discuss the situation in “Ukraine and bilateral relations and to exchange views on current issues.”
A Turkish official earlier told AFP that the meeting was scheduled for Thursday.
The Turkish official said Erdogan is scheduled to fly to Astana on Wednesday for talks with Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.
Turkey refrained from joining Western sanctions against Russia.
Erdogan, who met Putin on the sidelines of a regional summit in Uzbekistan last month, is keen to boost trade with Moscow as he tries to stabilize Turkey’s battered economy in the run-up to elections next June.
Ankara has succumbed to pressure from the United States and confirmed last month that the last three Turkish banks still processing Russian bank card payments are in decline.
The decision came after weeks of increasingly stark warnings from Washington for Turkey to either restrict economic ties with Russia or risk the sanctions themselves.
Erdogan has yet to comment on the mass Russian strikes targeting Ukrainian cities, killing 19 people and wounding more than 100, according to Ukraine’s emergency services.
A Turkish diplomatic source said Cavusoglu made a phone call to his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba after Monday’s attacks, without elaborating on further details.
During the interview on Tuesday, Cavusoglu called for a “just peace” based on Ukraine’s territorial integrity.
There must be a just peace for Ukraine. Where is the war going? “It’s taking place on Ukrainian soil,” he said.
A process that guarantees Ukraine’s borders and territorial integrity must begin. Without a ceasefire, these issues cannot be talked about in a healthy way: a viable ceasefire and a just peace.”
Turkey has rejected Russia’s annexation of four Ukrainian provinces as a “serious violation” of international law and has called for negotiations to end the conflict.