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10 Apr, 2021 22:53

Turkey backs Ukraine’s NATO bid & Crimea policy, says military industry cooperation with Kiev is ‘not aimed against 3rd countries’

Turkey backs Ukraine’s NATO bid & Crimea policy, says military industry cooperation with Kiev is ‘not aimed against 3rd countries’

Ankara has backed Ukraine’s bid to join NATO and vowed to expand defense industry cooperation as well as “coordinate steps” with Kiev to reclaim Crimea, while also insisting it does not seek to take steps against third countries.

“Our main goal is that the Black Sea continues to be a sea of peace, tranquility and cooperation,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at a joint press conference following three-hour-long talks with Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky in Istanbul on Saturday.

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The Turkish president said Ankara does not want “escalation” in the region “in any way,” and called for a peaceful resolution of a current flare-up between Kiev’s military and separatists in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions of Ukraine, collectively known as the Donbass.

At the same time, a joint declaration signed by the two leaders states that Kiev and Ankara agreed to boost defense cooperation “by completing current and developing new joint projects.” 

Noting the importance of Turkish-Ukrainian cooperation in the sphere, Erdogan, however, claimed that this was "not in any way a move against third countries". This statement was widely understood to refer to Russia. 

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Turkey has also expressed support for the “prospect of Ukraine's NATO membership,” and the two nations vowed to maintain security cooperation in the Black Sea region “through bilateral and multilateral mechanisms, including NATO.”

Zelensky stated that he believes Kiev and Ankara share the same “visions” about the situation in the area, “both regarding the threats themselves and the ways of responding to these threats.”

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At the meeting, Ankara reaffirmed its longstanding policy of not recognizing the reunification of Crimea with Russia in 2014, and agreeing to ”coordinate steps aimed at restoring the territorial integrity of Ukraine," including the so-called “de-occupation” of the peninsula. Crimea rejoined Russia following a referendum, which the West refuses to recognize.

In particular, Turkey pledged to support the so-called Crimean Platform – a sort of international discussion forum that Kiev seeks to launch to discuss a way of returning the territory. 

The talks between the two presidents came amid mounting tensions in Donbass between Kiev’s army and separatist forces, who are backed by Moscow. Shelling and gun battles resumed on the contact line, resulting in casualties reported on both sides.

The Kremlin has described the situation as “rather frightening,” while Kiev’s backers in Washington accused Moscow of amassing troops on the border with Ukraine and urged it to refrain from “escalatory” actions. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russian troop movements are part of routine relocations, and noted that Russia wants to keep a watchful eye on such “a troubled region like Ukraine.”

In case full-scale hostilities break out, all nations, including Russia, would have to take measures to avert potential bloodshed, Peskov said on Friday, adding that the resumption of a civil war in Ukraine would pose “a threat to Russia’s security.”

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