Turkey’s Erdogan warns against spreading Ukraine conflict to NATO, exacerbating war

By Thomson Reuters Mar 12, 2024 | 1:33 PM

ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday any steps that would exacerbate the war in Ukraine and possibly spread the conflict to NATO must be avoided, adding he would host Russian President Vladimir Putin after elections later this month.

NATO member Turkey supports Ukraine’s territorial integrity. But it also maintains cordial relations with Russia and regularly speaks with both sides in the conflict. It has provided Ukraine with military and political support but also opposes sanctions on Moscow.

Speaking at a Ramadan fast-breaking dinner with foreign ambassadors in Ankara, Erdogan said Ankara would continue to work to revive the defunct Black Sea grain deal it brokered between Moscow and Kyiv with the United Nations.

“While putting forth our support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, we have already said that peace plans excluding Russia will not yield any results,” Erdogan said, in a reference to a planned Ukraine peace summit in Switzerland later this year, which Russia will not attend.

“We are working to re-establish navigational safety in the Black Sea and ensure grain trade can be done safely. We believe steps that would exacerbate conflicts in the region, that would spread to NATO as well must be avoided,” he added.

Last month, French President Emmanuel Macron said Western allies should not rule out deploying troops to Ukraine. However, most allies and NATO’s chief have distanced themselves from the idea.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy visited Istanbul last week and Erdogan offered to host a Ukraine-Russia peace summit. He said on Tuesday that Putin would visit Turkey after elections in March, without elaborating.

The Kremlin has previously said Putin’s visit to Turkey will be after Russia elections on March 15-17. Turks will also go to polls on March 31 for nationwide municipal elections.

Turkey hosted peace talks between Russia and Ukraine in 2022 but has since complained that no diplomatic step has been taken to advance these discussions. It has repeatedly offered to host further talks, saying a summit of leaders was needed.

Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan has said the sides must start considering ceasefire talks, but that this should not mean the recognition of Russia’s occupation.

(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)