Turkey to stress Ukraine support during Zelenskiy visit, Turkish source says

Credit: REUTERS/UMIT BEKTAS

By Tuvan Gumrukcu and Yuliia Dysa

ISTANBUL, March 8 (Reuters) - Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan hosted Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Istanbul on Friday for talks on the course of the Ukraine-Russia war, the defunct Black Sea grain deal, and increased defence industry cooperation, the two sides said.

The Turkish Presidency said the meeting started around 1615 GMT, after Zelenskiy visited a shipyard near Istanbul to inspect work on two corvettes being built for Ukraine's navy.

Turkey is a member of NATO and has backed Ukraine's territorial integrity, but also maintains cordial relations with Russia and speaks regularly with both sides in the conflict, notably as a sponsor of the Black Sea deal that lifted a de facto Russian blockade of Ukrainian grain exports.

Zelenskiy's office said the agenda with Erdogan included a peace formula aimed at ending the war with Russia, the release of Ukrainian prisoners of war held by Moscow, and bilateral defence industry ties.

At the start of the meeting Zelenskiy said on social media platform X that Ankara and Kyiv should work together to achieve food security and navigational security in the Black Sea, adding Ukraine also wanted stronger defence ties with Turkey and needed its help in securing the release of prisoners.

"We are interested in strengthening bilateral cooperation and co-production with Turkish defence companies," he said.

A Turkish diplomatic source said Ankara would reiterate its desire to end the war "on the basis of negotiations", while also emphasising strong continued support for Ukraine's territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence.

Last week, Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan said after meeting Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov at a diplomacy forum in southern Turkey that it was time for Kyiv and Moscow to start ceasefire talks, but added that this must not mean the recognition of Russia's occupation.

Asked at the same forum whether Ukraine could continue to fight if Western support fell, Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Mykola Tochytskyi said only a full Russian withdrawal would end the fighting, even if Ukraine did not have "100% support" from its Western partners.

"We will continue to fight because - it may be pathetic but it's a reality - in any case Russia will kill each Ukrainian, so better to die in the battlefield than in a Russian prison."

GRAIN DEAL ON AGENDA

That deal, brokered by Turkey and the United Nations, had allowed Ukraine to safely export grain from its Black Sea ports. Ankara has pushed to revive it, but Russia, which said its requests for better terms for its own food and fuel exports were ignored, has said it was not interested.

Turkey, which controls the outlet to the Black Sea, has provided military support for Kyiv while opposing Western sanctions imposed on Russia.

As part of its balancing act Ankara has offered to mediate between the sides and host peace talks, while maintaining its defence industry ties with Ukraine and deepening its energy cooperation with Russia. It also inked an accord to take part in the post-war reconstruction of Ukraine.

Reuters exclusively reported last month that a U.S. threat to hit financial firms doing business with Russia with sanctions had chilled Turkish-Russian trade, disrupting or slowing some payments for both imported oil and Turkish exports.

(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Yuliia Dysa; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Ece Toksabay and Hugh Lawson)

((daren.butler@tr.com;))

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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