Turkish president calls for peaceful, diplomatic solution to tensions in eastern Ukraine

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(REUTERS) – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday called for a peaceful and diplomatic solution to the “worrying developments” in eastern Ukraine between Kiev and Moscow.

The goal is that the Black Sea continues to be a sea of peace, tranquility, and cooperation, Erdogan said at a joint press conference with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky in Istanbul, adding that his country does not want the tension to escalate. 

Zelensky arrived at Istanbul on Saturday. The two leaders co-chaired the 9th meeting of the Turkey-Ukraine High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council, a framework established by the two countries in 2011. 

For his part, Zelensky said Turkey’s support for the restoration of sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine is “extremely important.” He pointed out that the cooperation in defense sector is a driving force of the two countries’ strategic partnership. 

Meanwhile, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar had a separate meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart Andriy Taran, exchanging opinions about bilateral and regional defense issues, as well as defense industry cooperation, Turkish Ministry of Defense said in a statement. 

Recently, the situation in eastern Ukraine has become tense again. Ukraine said on March 30 that Russia’s assembly of troops along the border area posed a serious threat to Ukraine’s national security. Earlier, officials from the U.S. Department of Defense stated that the United States would send warships to the Black Sea to show its support for Ukraine. 

The United States, as a country from outside the Black Sea, had notified Turkey through diplomatic channels that two of its warships will go through the Turkish Straits according to Montreux Convention Regarding the Regime of the Straits, and will stay in the Black Sea until May, a source from Turkish Foreign Ministry revealed on Friday. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin talked with Erdogan on the phone on Friday, blaming Ukraine’s dangerous provocative behaviors in the eastern region. Putin pointed out that the Minsk Agreement is the basis for resolving disputes in eastern Ukraine, and expressed concerns about Ukraine’s evasion of fulfilling it.