ISTANBUL: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Russian leader Vladimir Putin in a phone call on Wednesday that Turkey would not recognise any move against Ukraine’s sovereignty, and warned against a military conflict.
Erdogan told Putin that Turkey would “not recognise any step against Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” his office said, adding that this was Ankara’s “principled approach”.
President Vladimir Putin has defied an avalanche of international sanctions and put his forces on stand-by to occupy and defend two rebel-held areas of eastern Ukraine.
Russia recognised the regions as independent this week, a serious escalation of tensions in the ongoing crisis.
NATO member Turkey, which has friendly ties to Russia and Ukraine, has sought to position itself as a mediator.
During the phone call with Putin, Erdogan said “a military conflict would not bring benefit to anyone”, and that Ankara prioritised diplomacy and dialogue, the presidency said.
“Turkey is ready to do its part to reduce tensions and maintain peace,” he told Putin.
Turkey’s Erdogan says cannot abandon ties with Russia or Ukraine
The Kremlin said Putin told Erdogan about the “necessity” of his decision to recognise east Ukraine’s rebel Donetsk and Lugansk republics — a move that opens the door to the presence of the Russian army there.
Putin said the decision was taken “in the conditions of the aggression of Ukrainian authorities in Donbas and their categorical refusal” to abide to a peace agreement, the Kremlin said.
Erdogan cut short a trip to Africa amid the flurry of diplomacy over the crisis and returned Turkey late on Tuesday.
Speaking to reporters on the plane home, Erdogan said Turkey did not want to choose between Russia and Ukraine, in comments published in Turkish media on Wednesday.
“It is not possible for us to give up on both,” he said.
“We have political and military relations with Russia. We also have political, military and economic ties with Ukraine,” he added.
“We want this issue to be resolved without us having to choose between the two.”
Erdogan has proposed a trilateral summit in Turkey with Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
The Turkish leader told Zelensky in a phone call on Tuesday that “Putin’s recognition of so-called republics” was unacceptable.