Erdogan says won't accept moves on Ukraine's sovereignty

AFP , Wednesday 23 Feb 2022

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Russian leader Vladimir Putin in a phone call on Wednesday that Turkey would not recognise any move against Ukraine's sovereignty, and warned against a military conflict.

Erdogan and Putin
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (R)

Erdogan told Putin that Turkey would "not recognise any step against Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity," his office said, adding that this was Ankara's "principled approach".

President Vladimir Putin has defied an avalanche of international sanctions to put his forces on stand-by to occupy and defend two rebel-held areas of eastern Ukraine, after recognising the two regions as independent.

NATO member Turkey, which has friendly ties to both Russia and Ukraine, has sought to position itself as a mediator in the crisis.

During the phone call with Putin, Erdogan said "a military conflict would not bring benefit to anyone", and that Ankara placed priority on diplomacy and dialogue, the presidency said.

"Turkey is ready to do its part to reduce tensions and maintain peace," he told Putin.

Erdogan cut short his trip to Africa amid the flurry of diplomacy over the crisis between Russia and Ukraine and returned Turkey late on Tuesday.

Speaking to reporters on the plane from Africa, Erdogan said Turkey did not want to make a choice between Russia and Ukraine, in comments published in Turkish media on Wednesday.

"It is not possible for us to give up on both," he said.

"We have political and military relations with Russia. We also have political, military and economic ties with Ukraine," he added.

"We want this issue to be resolved without us having to choose between the two."

Erdogan has proposed a trilateral summit in Turkey with Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The Turkish leader told Zelensky in a phone call on Tuesday that "Putin's recognition of so-called republics" was unacceptable.

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