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Iran Press TV

Turkey's Erdogan vows 'all forms of support' to Ukraine amid tensions with Russia

Iran Press TV

Sunday, 11 April 2021 6:38 AM

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said his country, a NATO member, is ready to provide "all forms of support" for Ukraine amid rising tensions between Moscow and Kiev over the long-running conflict in Donbass.

At a meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, in Istanbul, Erdogan said Turkey aims "to ensure the Black Sea remains a sea of peace and cooperation" as US warships were due to sail through Turkey's Bosphorus.

"We don't want an increase in tensions in our common region," Erdogan said.

In recent weeks, tensions have mounted between Moscow and Kiev amid a spike in violence in the Russian-speaking eastern Donbass region, where Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian forces have fought a conflict that has killed 14,000 people since 2014 by Ukraine's estimate.

The Turkish leader also said, "We stand for Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty," and branded the reunification of the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea as the annexation of Ukrainian land by Russia.

Erdogan said his government does not recognize "Crimea's annexation," calling for "respect for Ukraine's territorial integrity."

"The current crisis must be settled by peaceful means on the basis of international law," he added.

Erdogan's government provided Ukraine with drones in 2019.

For his part, Zelensky said, "Turkey's support for re-establishing our territorial sovereignty is essential."

In a phone call on Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin told Erdogan that Ukraine had "recently resumed dangerous provocations on the contact line," according to the Kremlin.

Crimea rejoined Russia following a referendum in 2014, in which more than 90 percent of the participants voted in favor of unification.

Kiev and its Western allies brand the reunification as the annexation of the territory and accuse Moscow of having a hand in the crisis. Moscow, however, denies the allegations.

Siding with Ukraine, the European Union has followed Washington's lead in leveling several rounds of sanctions against Moscow.

In the meantime, Turkey announced Friday that the United States will soon send two warships through the Bosphorus to the Black Sea, which borders both Russia and Ukraine.

The reports of planned military buildup by the US comes as Ukraine accuses Russia of massing thousands of military personnel on its northern and eastern borders as well as on the Crimean Peninsula.

On Saturday, Ukraine's defense minister, Andrii Taran, alleged that Russia might be resuming "armed aggression" against Ukraine.

Russian Defense Ministry, however, said that the Russian military deployment was aimed at holding a naval exercise in the region.

It said that a fleet of 10 navy vessels were moving to the area as part of the drills that involve approximately 15,000 personnel and will inspect combat readiness of Russia's naval forces by the end of this month.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova warned last week that the military buildup by the US is "gaining momentum," which only risks further escalation.

She did not rule out the use of military measures by Moscow in response to missile threats from the US and Britain, which has also pledged "unwavering" support for Ukraine.

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