Türkiye has always expressed his commitment to Ukraine’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and political unity since the annexation of Crimea in 2014, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Thursday.
Speaking to reporters at the Türkevi Center in New York, Erdoğan said the prisoner swap conducted by Russia and Ukraine, involving nearly 300 people and brokered by Türkiye, is an important step towards ending the war.
Among those exchanged, five senior Ukrainian commanders have arrived in Türkiye, where they will remain until the end of the war, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hailing them as “superheroes”.
Erdoğan said the exchange was the result of diplomatic exchanges he had with Zelenskyy and Russian President Putin.
“Turkiye has now received the result of his belief in the power of dialogue and diplomacy,” he said.
NATO member Türkiye has close ties with both Russia and Ukraine and has sought to balance wartime ties by dismissing Western sanctions against Moscow while simultaneously criticizing the Russian invasion and supplying Kyiv with armed drones.
“We will continue our efforts for peace and stability in the future. For example, as soon as we return, we will call the leaders again and continue our telephone diplomacy with them,” he added.
He added that the United Nations should take the initiative and make more efforts to resolve the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
“Unfortunately, the UN could not end the war, could not stop the bloodshed, nor could it find a solution to the energy and food crises that arose as a result of the war.” The efforts of the UN Secretary-General (Antonio Guterres) to the facility of the grain corridor on this issue has reassured the UN somewhat, but there is no doubt that more efforts should be made to end the war,” Erdogan said.
Türkiye, the UN, Russia and Ukraine signed an agreement on July 22 in Istanbul to resume grain exports from three Ukrainian Black Sea ports, which were suspended after the Russo-Ukrainian war began in February.
Ankara’s “sole goal” is to end the bloodshed and establish peace since the war between Russia and Ukraine started in February, Erdoğan said, adding: “We have always maintained our commitment to territorial war since Russia annexed Crimea.” Integrity, sovereignty and political unity of Ukraine expressed in 2014. Since the beginning of the war between Ukraine and Russia, we have emphasized that the steps taken by Russia at this time are unfair and unacceptable.”
Erdoğan said Türkiye favors diplomacy to resolve crises and outstanding issues.
“Lesson in Humanity”
Erdoğan said he had the opportunity to support his speech to the UN General Assembly with various images.
“One of the photos I showed was the bodies of 9-month-old baby Asim and 4-year-old Abdulvahab, who lost their lives after the Greek Coast Guard sank their boats,” he added.
During his speech on Tuesday, Erdoğan called out Greece for its “persecution” of migrants in the Aegean and eastern Mediterranean, saying: “Greece is turning the Aegean into a graveyard for refugees with its unlawful and reckless pushbacks.”
Erdogan said it was impossible not to be moved after seeing these painful photos.
“We wanted to teach the world a humanity lesson by showing the photos of the dead bodies of these babies, and I think we taught that humanity lesson.”
Ankara and global rights groups have repeatedly condemned Greece’s illegal practice of forcing asylum seekers back into Turkish waters and denying them entry as it violates humanitarian values and international law by endangering the lives of vulnerable migrants, including women and children.
– Need to change the UN structure
Referring to UN Security Council reform amid ongoing deadlocks on key issues, Erdogan said US President Joe Biden’s statement on the UN Security Council shows Türkiye’s correctness.
Biden advocated expanding the body’s membership, saying permanent seats should be granted to nations in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.
“They say, ‘Let’s increase both permanent and temporary members’. But of course I’m not on the same point. I’m saying it shouldn’t be ‘permanent and temporary’… and it is necessary to introduce one fully rotating membership system,” Erdogan said.
Erdogan said the UN’s “hands up, hands up” system must end in order to find solutions for a fairer world order in which all member countries have a say.
The president always says Türkiye will continue to affirm on every platform that “the world is bigger than five” and “a more just world is possible”.
– F-16 sales talks going “positively”
Regarding the US sale of F-16 jets to Ankara, Erdogan said the talks were “going well”.
“We hope that this positive atmosphere will continue. I think we will get a result of this as soon as possible. Of course, we didn’t have the opportunity to discuss the topic in detail with Biden at the reception. Later, we may have the opportunity to discuss these issues via telephone diplomacy,” he added.
Ankara requested the F-16s and modernization kits last October. The $6 billion deal would involve the sale of 40 F-16 jets and modernization kits for 79 fighter jets held by the Turkish Air Force.
In July, however, the US House of Representatives passed legislation that creates a new hurdle for the sale.
It bans the sale unless President Joe Biden certifies that the transfer is in the US national interest and guarantees to Congress that the Turkish government “did not violate the sovereignty of Greece, either,” in the 120 days before the transfer through territorial overflights”.
For his part, Türkiye has made it clear that the terms are not “binding” on Greece and expressed hope that the US would not fall for such “games”.
Erdoğan could meet with Armenia’s prime minister in Prague
Erdoğan said statements by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in Armenia could not halt developments in the Caucasus.
Pelosi on Sunday condemned Azerbaijan for what she described as “illegal” border attacks on Armenia and pledged US support for Armenia’s sovereignty.
The President hinted at a possible meeting with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian in the Czech capital of Prague, where the European Political Community Summit will be held on October 6-7.
“There is the summit of the European Political Community in Prague. We are currently evaluating whether or not to attend the summit. If we attend the summit, Pashinyan could come there. I guess he had a thought, ‘Can we meet there?’. Maybe we can talk to him there about these issues,” Erdoğan said.
He added that Türkiye will take steps in the Caucasus with Azerbaijan.
Greece continues its “oppressive policy” against the Muslim Turkish minority
When asked about comments by Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, who “urged Türkiye to answer why the Greek minority in Istanbul had once shrunk from 100,000 to less than 5,000 people,” Erdogan said, “I don’t have much to say about the Greek.” Secretary of State, he is not my interlocutor. If he wants to talk, let him talk to (Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt) Çavuşoğlu.”
Ankara has not expelled any Greeks from Türkiye during our tenure, Erdogan said, adding that his government does not want a reduction in the Greek population in the country.
“For example, when I traveled to Bozcaada or Gokceada, I would always ask our very few Greek citizens who live there, ‘Where are your children?’ They said: In America. I said bring her here. They said: I can’t bring my child from America. What does that show? It means he/she doesn’t want to live in Türkiye. Our door is always open.
“We would give citizenship to this child if he didn’t have citizenship. In fact, a family once did not allow someone to marry a Turkish girl. I said, ‘If you ask me for help, I’ll try,'” he added.
Erdoğan said Greece continues to pursue “oppressive policies” against the Muslim Turkish minority.
“Turkiye would be happy if direct flights from Russia to Northern Cyprus start”
During his speech to the United Nations, Erdogan called on the international community to make efforts to end the oppression of Turkish Cypriots and officially recognize the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) as soon as possible.
Erdogan said he discussed the North Cyprus issue with Putin, saying, “We have reiterated our rightful struggle in Cyprus and the just and lasting resolution of the issue to all leaders we hosted or visited in our country.”
Russia has reappointed Murat Zyazikov as its ambassador to southern Cyprus, a move taken as a sign of Putin’s goodwill toward Erdoğan and TRNC President Ersin Tatar.
“Of course we would be happy if direct flights from Russia to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus would start. Another very important aspect of this is: as you know, the tourism potential of Russia is very high,” Erdoğan said.
Cyprus is mired in a decades-long dispute between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, despite a series of UN diplomatic efforts to reach a comprehensive solution.