Erdogan asks Putin to return the occupied territories in Ukraine | International

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is trying to mediate between Moscow and kyiv, considers that a hypothetical peace agreement should include the return of the territories invaded by Russia, including Crimea. This is what he said in an interview with the US network PBS, in which he also assured that Putin could take “significant steps” shortly in search of an end to the war.

The Islamist leader has personally met with his Russian counterpart three times in the last two months. The last time, last week in Samarkand (Uzbekistan), during the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, led by Moscow and Beijing. At that summit, both China and India expressed their discomfort to Putin over the prolongation of the war.

“In Uzbekistan, I met with President Putin, and we had extensive talks with him [sobre Ucrania]. And indeed, it shows that he is willing to get this over with as soon as possible. That was my impression, because things are going in a problematic direction right now,” Erdogan said during the interview in New York, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, which is taking place these days.

Asked if Russia should be allowed to keep some of the territory it has conquered since Putin launched the invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Erdogan replied, “No, definitely not.” In the event that a peace agreement is reached – something that Turkey has been negotiating with the parties since March – “it is expected” that “the territories that were invaded will be returned to Ukraine”. “The return of the invaded territories will be very important,” Erdogan stressed. In addition, he extended that wish to the territory of Crimea, occupied since 2014.

Turkey maintains a historical relationship with this peninsula, which was a vassal of the Ottoman Empire and is one of the homes of the Tatar people, who share linguistic and cultural ties with the Turks. Turkish nationalism originated in the 19th century among the bourgeoisie and important Tatar intellectuals, persecuted by the homogenizing policies of the Russian Empire, who brought these ideas to their exile in Istanbul. “Since 2014 I have been talking about this with my very dear friend Putin and we have asked him. We have asked you to return Crimea to its rightful owners. That they are our descendants at the same time,” Erdogan said.

Ankara has maintained a policy of balance since the beginning of the Russian invasion, closing the passage of the Turkish straits that give access to the Black Sea to Russian military ships, although it has also sold armed drones to Ukraine, a country with which it maintains a strategic alliance agreement, which includes the joint production of weapons and defense equipment. Turkey has refused to apply the sanctions approved by its NATO partners and has allowed its country to become one of the main outlets for Russian production. But, equally, it has managed to convince Moscow to accept the implementation of the grain corridor through the Black Sea, which has made it possible to resume Ukrainian grain exports blocked by the conflict. Moreover, during the interview, Erdogan announced that an exchange of more than 200 prisoners of war between Moscow and kyiv has been agreed.

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