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Turkey offers to mediate in Russia's conflict with eastern Ukraine

Erdogan has also added that sanctions against Moscow will not solve the crisis
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan shake hands after a press conference following their talks in Moscow, Russia, March 5, 2020.

REUTERS/PAVEL GOLOVKIN  -   Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan shake hands after a press conference following their talks in Moscow, Russia, March 5, 2020

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday that Turkey, as a NATO member, is ready to mediate in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. His foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, backed this up by saying that he will hold talks with his Russian and Ukrainian counterparts on Thursday.

The Turkish minister also said that sanctions on Moscow would not solve any crisis, a statement that comes after the Ukrainians called on NATO to impose sanctions against Russia in anticipation of the start of a Russian attack in the east of the country. "Like Turkey, what we believe in is a fair balance between deterrence and dialogue. No one can help Ukraine or any other country through sanctions alone," Cavusoglu said.

AFP/GINTS IVUSKANS
AFP/GINTS IVUSKANS - NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg addresses the press during a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Riga, Latvia, Nov. 30, 2021.

These statements on sanctions follow NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg's decision to stand ready to adopt economic sanctions against Russia if it eventually attacks Ukraine. "Any future Russian aggression against Ukraine would come with a heavy price and would have serious political and economic consequences for Russia," the NATO Secretary General said on Tuesday. For his part, Putin has already dismissed the validity of NATO, recently severing diplomatic relations with it. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has argued for Russia to reverse this decision and warned of "grave consequences" if Russia attacks Ukraine.

All this comes as tensions between Russia and Ukraine rise, after Moscow increased its military presence along Ukraine's border for the second time this year. Russia, for its part, has accused Ukraine this past week of deploying more than 125,000 troops in Donbasss, the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine where Ukrainian central forces have been fighting since 2014 against Russian-backed separatists. 

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SPUTNIK/MIKHAIL METZEL - Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a session of the VTB Capital Investment Forum "Russia is calling!" via video conference in Moscow, Russia, 30 November 2021.

In any case, Turkey's request for mediation has already been answered, at least by Ukraine. Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelensky has welcomed Turkey's proposal, as Ukrainian presidential advisor Miakhil Podolik has conveyed. "We certainly welcome all efforts aimed at finding an optimal solution for the return of peace to Ukraine, and even more, we appreciate the efforts of such a powerful player as Turkey in the global political market," said Podoliák.

Russia, for its part, has yet to respond. Everything is relegated to Friday, when Putin and Erdogan are expected to hold talks, as assured by Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, who a priori dismissed Turkey's offer of mediation. "It would be right for Russia not to reject the Turkish president's mediation," Podolik said of Turkey's mediation proposal.

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AFP/SERGEI SUPINSKY - Participants in war with Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine

For its part, Turkey's ties are not presented in an entirely objective light. While Erdogan maintains good relations with Kiev and Moscow, Ankara opposes Russian policies in Syria, Libya and Crimea. Despite this, Erdogan maintains a policy of defence and energy cooperation with Putin, but also some tensions, especially over the sale of sophisticated drones to Ukraine.