ANKARA – Turkey is in contact with Ukraine and Russia to ease tensions, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday, adding that sanctions on Moscow will not solve the crisis.
Ukrainian and Western officials say Moscow has massed forces on the border with Ukraine, which is battling Russia-backed separatists who control part of its territory to the east, and Kyiv on Wednesday urged NATO to prepare sanctions on Russia.
President Tayyip Erdogan said this week NATO member Turkey was ready to mediate between Ukraine and Russia, and Cavusoglu said he would hold talks with his Ukrainian and Russian counterparts on Thursday.
“We are in contact with both sides and we are advising them both to remain calm and ease tensions,” Cavusoglu was quoted as saying by state-owned Anadolu news agency. He said Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin would discuss the matter by phone on Friday.
“We don’t believe sanctions will solve the issue,” Cavusoglu said. “As Turkey, what we believe in is a right balance between deterrence and dialogue. Nobody can help Ukraine or another country through sanctions alone.”
Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova dismissed Erdogan’s mediation offer, saying it did not refer to the conflict in Donbass between Ukrainian government forces and Russia-backed separatists, but Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Erdogan and Putin would discuss the issue.
Turkey has good ties with both Kyiv and Moscow, but opposes Russian policies in Syria and Libya, as well as its annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014. While forging cooperation with Russia on defence and energy, Ankara has also sold sophisticated Turkish drones to Ukraine, angering Moscow.