Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday he was sending his foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, to Moscow and Kyiv this week as part of Turkey’s mediation efforts to secure a ceasefire in Ukraine.
NATO member Turkey shares a maritime border with Ukraine and Russia in the Black Sea, has good ties with both and has offered to mediate between the warring countries. It has voiced support for Ukraine, but also opposed sanctions on Moscow.
“I am sending my foreign minister to Russia tonight. He will hold talks in Moscow tomorrow, and travel to Kyiv on Thursday,” Erdogan said after a cabinet meeting.
Erdogan also said he would meet Polish President Andrzej Duda for talks in Ankara on Wednesday, adding that Turkey had become “a symbol of hope” after it hosted the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers last week for the first high-level talks between the warring sides.
Last week’s talks in the resort of Antalya, which Cavusoglu also attended, did not yield any concrete results.
Ukraine said on Sunday it was working with Turkey and Israel as mediators to set a place and framework for negotiations with Russia.
While forging close ties with Russia on energy, defence and trade and relying heavily on Russian tourists, Turkey has also sold drones to Ukraine, angering Moscow. It also opposes Russian policies in Syria and Libya, as well as its annexation of Crimea in 2014.
Erdogan has repeatedly said Turkey will not abandon its ties with Russia or Ukraine, saying Ankara’s ability to speak to both sides was an asset.
Cavusoglu said earlier that Turkish officials had held talks with Ukrainian negotiators and that contacts would intensify, as Ankara also works to evacuate its citizens from Ukraine.
He said he expected Turks stranded in a mosque in the heavily bombarded port city of Mariupol to be evacuated within the week after a phone call with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. He said some 15,000 Turks had been evacuated from Ukraine so far.
Turkish defense ministry sources said Ankara was awaiting Russian approval for the mosque evacuation, pending a security evaluation. Landmines in the area had been cleared and work was ongoing to open humanitarian corridors, they said.
Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special operation” whose aim is to demilitarize and “denazify” the former Soviet republic. It denies targeting civilian areas. [Reuters]