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Turkey calls on NATO and the West to take decisive action in the Ukraine crisis

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Turkey reaffirmed its commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s invasion of the country on Friday, as President Recep Tayyip Erdoan urged NATO to take a decisive stance on the crisis.

Addressing reporters in Istanbul ahead of a virtual NATO leaders summit following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Erdoğan said that NATO’s reaction to the Russian military attack should have been more decisive, adding that condemnation alone will not suffice.

He also said that the European Union and the West have not exhibited a firm stance on the issue thus far.

“It should not turn into an ordinary flurry of condemnation. NATO should have taken a more decisive step,” Erdoğan said adding: “The EU and all Western mentalities did not show a seriously determined stance, they are all constantly advising Ukraine. It is not possible to get anywhere with advice. When you look at the steps taken, there are no steps taken.”

NATO member Turkey borders Ukraine and Russia in the Black Sea and has good ties with both. It has called on Russia to end its attack and voiced support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity. While forging close cooperation with Russia on defense and energy, Turkey has also sold drones to Ukraine and signed a deal to co-produce more. Ankara also opposes Russian policies in Syria and Libya, as well as its annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Meanwhile, senior Turkish officials conducted intense diplomatic traffic on the issue.

President Erdoğan on Thursday spoke over the phone with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron.

The two sides discussed Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine and the latest developments, a statement by the Communications Directorate said.

Both Turkey and France condemned Moscow’s decision to launch an invasion of Ukraine earlier on Thursday after it assaulted the country by land, sea and air in the biggest attack by one state against another in Europe since World War II. Russian forces targeted key areas of Ukrainian cities with weapons and missiles in what Moscow called a special operation against its neighbor.

Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu discussed the latest developments in Ukraine with his American counterpart by phone late Thursday, said the Foreign Ministry.

In the call with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Çavuşoğlu reiterated that Turkey rejects Russia’s military operation in Ukraine, which it considers a serious violation of international law, the ministry said.

He also stressed that Turkey will continue to support Ukraine’s territorial integrity, political unity and sovereignty, it added.

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Çavuşoğlu and Blinken also exchanged views on the processes currently underway at the United Nations, NATO, the European Council and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in light of the developments in Ukraine, according to the statement.

On the call, U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price highlighted that Blinken thanked Turkey for its strong, vocal support in defense of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. He also said Blinken “emphasized that Russia’s destructive actions will reverberate throughout Europe and the broader world.”

Moreover, Blinken said on Twitter that the U.S. and Turkey “continue our close coordination as NATO allies against Russia’s unprovoked military attacks on Ukraine.”

On Friday, Çavuşoğlu also held phone calls with the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell and Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmitro Kuleba.

Borrell said on Twitter: “We agreed to continue coordinating, to bring this unacceptable aggression to an end as quickly as possible.”

Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and his British counterpart Ben Wallace also held a phone call and discussed regional defense and security issues, focusing on the developments in Ukraine.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Önal on Thursday also underlined that the military assault launched by Russia against Ukraine is “unacceptable.”

Speaking at the OSCE Permanent Council meeting via videoconference, Önal said: “We reject this assault, as we rejected the decision to recognize the so-called breakaway republics of Donetsk and Luhansk.”

Önal described the Russian assault as a “blatant violation of international law,” adding that the recent move contravenes the Minsk agreements and poses a serious threat to the security and stability of the region and the world.

“We remain committed to and will continue to support the preservation of the sovereignty, political unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders, including Crimea and Donbas,” said Önal.

Calling on Russia to stop this “unlawful assault” and return to dialogue and diplomacy, the diplomat added that Turkey is ready to work with all parties to facilitate a peaceful resolution of this crisis.

Turkey has described the Russian offensive into Ukraine as “unacceptable,” calling it a grave violation of international law that poses a serious threat to the security of the region and world. Rejecting the Russian intervention in Ukraine, Ankara called on Moscow to end the “unfair and unlawful” military operations as soon as possible.

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Due to the latest developments, President Erdoğan on Thursday chaired a security summit in the capital Ankara where it was concluded that Russia’s attack was “a violation of international law” and “unacceptable,” according to the Presidency.

Measures that can be taken with Russia and at international platforms for an “end to the attack that threatens regional and global security” were also discussed at the summit, it said, noting that Turkey “will continue to support Ukraine’s political unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Later in the day, Erdoğan in a televised speech reiterated that Turkey supports Ukraine’s battle for territorial integrity and views Russia’s attack as a “heavy blow” to regional stability and peace, repeating a call to resolve the crisis through dialogue. “This step, which we view as against international law, is a heavy blow struck on regional peace, harmony and stability,” he said.

He said Turkey, which has a maritime border with both Ukraine and Russia in the Black Sea, views both countries as friendly, expressing that he was “sincerely saddened” by the Moscow-Kyiv conflict.

“Beyond eliminating the Minsk agreements, this attack is a grave violation of international law and poses a serious threat to the security of our region and the world,” the Foreign Ministry also said in a statement. “We call on the Russian Federation to immediately end this unjust and unlawful act.”

NATO member Turkey has sought to position itself as a mediator for a resolution to the crisis. Erdoğan, who stepped up diplomacy with phone calls to the Russian and Ukrainian leaders this week, said Turkey had no desire to abandon ties with either of the countries.

Meanwhile, Ukraine has asked Turkey to close the Bosporus and Dardanelles to Russian ships, after Russia launched air and ground assaults on its neighbor. The Ukrainian ambassador said his country expected solidarity from NATO member Turkey and that it should not remain impartial after Russia launched its offensive.

The request puts NATO member Turkey, which shares a maritime border with Ukraine and Russia in the Black Sea and has good relations with both countries, in a difficult position. Under a 1936 pact, Ankara has control over the straits and can limit warship passages during wartime or if threatened.

Under the 1936 Montreux Convention, NATO member Turkey has control over the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits linking the Mediterranean and Black seas. The pact gives Ankara the power to regulate the transit of naval warships and to close the straits to foreign warships during wartime and when threatened.

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“We are calling for the air space, Bosporus and Dardanelles straits to be closed. We have conveyed our relevant demand to the Turkish side. At the same time, we want sanctions imposed on the Russian side. Particularly, we demand the seizure of the shares of the Russian business world here,” Ukrainian Ambassador to Turkey Vasyl Bodnar told a news conference in Ankara.

Turkey has opposed sanctions on Russia, saying that they will only delay solving underlying problems. Erdoğan has said Ankara would try managing the crisis without abandoning ties with either Moscow or Kyiv, but has also called Russian steps against Ukraine unacceptable, while also offering to mediate.

The February 2014 “Maidan revolution” in Ukraine led to former President Viktor Yanukovych fleeing the country and a pro-Western government coming to power.

That was followed by Russia illegally annexing the Crimea region and separatists declaring independence in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Donbass in eastern Ukraine, both of which have large ethnic Russian populations.

As clashes erupted between Russian-backed separatist forces and the Ukrainian army, the 2014 and 2015 Minsk agreements were signed in Moscow after the intervention of Western powers.

The conflict, however, simmered for years with persistent cease-fire violations. As of February 2022, some 14,000 people have been killed in the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Tensions started escalating late last year when Ukraine, the U.S. and its allies accused Russia of amassing tens of thousands of troops on the border with Ukraine.

They claimed Russia was preparing to invade its western neighbor, allegations that were consistently rejected by Moscow.

Defying threats of sanctions by the West, Moscow officially recognized Donetsk and Luhansk as independent states earlier this week, followed by the start of a military operation in Ukraine on Thursday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the operation aims to protect people “subjected to genocide” by Kyiv and to “demilitarize and denazify” Ukraine while calling on the Ukrainian army to lay down its arms.

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