Turkey warns against ‘burning bridges’ with Russia
Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin warned against isolating Moscow, stating that Russia “must be heard one way or another.” The official made the remarks on Sunday, during the opening session of the Doha Forum.
“If everybody burns bridges with Russia, then who’s going to talk to them, at the end of the day?” Kalin asked.
At the same time, he urged international leaders to support Ukraine “by every means possible” so it can “defend” itself against the ongoing Russian offensive launched in late February. The Russian position must nonetheless be taken into consideration, he stressed.
“The Russian case must be heard, one way or the other,” Kalin stated.
NATO member Turkey has been striving to take a neutral stance in the ongoing conflict, and is purportedly seeking to act as a mediator between Moscow and Kiev. Unlike other members of the US-led bloc, Ankara has refused to impose economic sanctions against Russia and has kept open its diplomatic channels with both sides.
It has also explicitly refused to supply its Russian-made S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems to prop up the Ukrainian military. While the potential transfer – apparently in return for Washington supplying F-35 fighter jets and American-made anti-aircraft systems – has been widely reported by western media, top Turkish officials have said it was not on the table.
“This is a done deal for us. They are our property, serving our defense, so it’s over,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said earlier this week.
Ankara has closed the Turkish Sea straits, which connect the Black Sea with the Mediterranean and the Aegean, citing the provisions of the 1936 Montreux Convention. Under the agreement, it is able to close the straits to military vessels of any nation in a state of war, as well as when it perceives itself to be under imminent attack. Neither Russia nor Ukraine has formally declared war, however.
Russian launched its offensive against Ukraine on February 24, following a seven-year standoff over Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, and Russia’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. German- and French-brokered protocols had been designed to regularize the status of those regions within the Ukrainian state.
Russia has now demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join NATO. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.