Turkiye ‘would be solution point for steps to be taken’ to ease tension in Ukraine, Recep Tayyip Erdogan says
Turkiye’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday said that he will “most probably” have a meeting with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin this week.
Turkiye’s capital Ankara or Istanbul “would be the solution point for steps to be taken” to ease tensions in eastern Ukraine, Erdogan told reporters after offering Eid prayers in Istanbul.
Two months after the beginning of Moscow’s war on Ukraine, Russian troops intensified their attacks in the eastern part of the war-ravaged country.
Ankara, which has friendly ties with both sides, is actively involved in diplomatic efforts for a cease-fire between Ukraine and Russia. It hosted delegation level talks in Istanbul last month and has reiterated the proposal for a leaders’ summit between Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Talks between Russian and Ukrainian delegations in Istanbul on March 29 were seen as a breakthrough in the push to halt the hostilities that began on Feb. 24.
Earlier in March, Turkiye also brought together the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers in its southern resort city of Antalya, the first meeting of senior government officials from the two sides since the start of the war, now over two months old.
Turkish officials have also been engaging with their counterparts on the issue of humanitarian corridors in Ukraine to evacuate stranded civilians and wounded persons.
“We are taking all kinds of steps in the process of accelerating evacuations in Ukraine,” Erdogan said.
Turkiye has so far facilitated the evacuation of dozens of civilians from the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol.
Noting that both the Ukrainian and the Russian side want some support from Turkiye in grain exports, he said they will discuss these issues with Putin.
At least 2,899 civilians have been killed and 3,235 others injured in Ukraine since the war with Russia began, according to UN estimates. The true toll is feared to be much higher.
More than 5.4 million people have fled to other countries, with some 7.7 million people internally displaced, data from the UN refugee agency shows.
Regarding Turkiye’s relations with Saudi Arabia, the president said that the ties will come to a “very different position,” adding that he discussed this with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in their bilateral meeting last week.
“There have been very positive developments regarding the Gulf,” he said, adding that he believes the arrival of Saudi visitors to Turkiye will increase and accelerate.
In 2019, before the coronavirus devastated the tourism sector across the world, around 550,000 Saudi tourists visited Turkiye but dropped to nearly 80,000 in 2020, which could be increased to 400,000 this year if all goes well, according to the Turkish tourism industries insiders.
Stressing that Saudis’ understanding of tourism in Turkiye is “very positive,” Erdogan said: “I believe that the tourism season will be very positive in Turkiye.”
Turkish Culture and Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy will continue to work in this regard, he added.
On Saturday, Erdogan said that Ankara and Riyadh have demonstrated a common will to develop bilateral relations at the highest level. His remarks came during his return flight from Saudi Arabia.