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Turkey's Erdogan Calls for End to 'Worrying' Developments in Eastern Ukraine, Offers Support


Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy visits positions of armed forces near the frontline with Russian-backed separatists during his working trip in Donbass region, Ukraine April 8, 2021.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday called for the "worrying" developments in eastern Ukraine's Donbass region to come to an end after meeting his Ukrainian counterpart in Istanbul, adding that Turkey was ready to provide any necessary support.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy held more than three hours of talks with Erdogan in Istanbul as part of a previously scheduled visit, amid tensions between Kyiv and Moscow over the conflict in Donbass.

Kyiv has raised the alarm over a buildup of Russian forces near the border between Ukraine and Russia, and over a rise in violence along the line of contact separating Ukrainian troops and Russia-backed separatists in Donbass.

The Russian military movements have fueled concerns that Moscow is preparing to send forces into Ukraine. The Kremlin denies its troops are a threat but says they will remain as long as it sees fit.

The United States says Russia has amassed more troops on Ukraine's eastern border than at any time since 2014, when it annexed Crimea from Ukraine and backed separatists in Donbass. On Friday, Turkey said Washington will send two warships to the Black Sea next week.

Speaking at a news conference alongside Zelenskiy, Erdogan said he hoped the conflict would be resolved peacefully, through dialogue based on diplomatic customs, in line with international laws and Ukraine's territorial integrity.

"We hope for the worrying escalation observed on the field recently to end as soon as possible, the cease-fire to continue and for the conflict to be resolved via dialogue on the basis of the Minsk agreements," Erdogan said. "We are ready to provide any support necessary for this."

Major combat in Donbass ended with a truce agreed to in the Belarusian capital Minsk in 2015, whose implementation France and Germany have helped to oversee. Sporadic fighting continues despite repeated attempts to implement a cease-fire.

Zelenskiy said the positions of Kyiv and Ankara coincided on threats in the Black Sea and the response to those threats, and added he briefed Erdogan on the developments in Donbass.

"We discussed in detail the issues of security and joint counteraction to challenges in the Black Sea region and it is worth noting that the visions of Kyiv and Ankara coincide both regarding the threats themselves and the ways of responding to these threats," he said.

NATO member Turkey has forged close cooperation with Russia over conflicts in Syria, Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh, as well as in the defense and energy areas. But it has criticized Crimea's annexation and supported Ukraine's territorial integrity. It also sold drones to Kyiv in 2019.

Erdogan said on Saturday that Turkey and Ukraine launched a platform with their foreign and defense ministers to discuss defense industry cooperation but added this was "not in any way a move against third countries."

Ukraine and Russia have traded blame for the increase in violence in the conflict, which Kyiv says has killed 14,000 people since 2014.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a call with Erdogan on Friday, accused Ukraine of "dangerous provocative actions" in Donbass. Kyiv said on Saturday Ukraine could be provoked by Russian aggravation of the situation in Donbass.

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