Turkey urges de-escalation amid tensions between Russia, Ukraine, opposes sanctions on Moscow

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Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, on Wednesday urged “calm and de-escalation” amid rising tensions between Russia and Ukraine, adding that sanctions on Moscow will not resolve the crisis, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

Ukrainian and Western officials say Moscow has amassed forces on the border with Ukraine, which is battling Russia-backed separatists who control part of its territory to the east.

Kyiv on Wednesday urged NATO to prepare sanctions for Russia.

“We have been in touch with both sides, and we advise calm and de-escalation,” Çavuşoğlu told reporters ahead of the second day of a NATO foreign ministers’ meeting in Latvia’s capital of Riga.

Çavuşoğlu said he had spoken to the foreign ministers of Russia and Ukraine, Sergey Lavrov and Dmytro Kuleba, respectively.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will have talks with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, on Friday, he added.

When asked about possible international sanctions on Russia, Çavuşoğlu said, “Turkey does not believe sanctions will resolve the problems.”

“Instead of sanctions … we should have meaningful deterrence,” Çavuşoğlu said, asserting that sanctions did not work in the past.

When asked about possible NATO membership for Ukraine, Çavuşoğlu said, “Turkey is for enlargement and Turkey is for the membership of other neighboring countries.”

“We and our President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have been emphasizing this during NATO summits and ministerial meetings,” he added.

Çavuşoğlu’s remarks came after NATO’s top official said on Tuesday that Russia would face serious consequences if it uses force against Ukraine.

“We call on Russia to be transparent, de-escalate and reduce tensions,” Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference after the first day of the NATO foreign ministers conference.

Day two of the NATO meeting began with a morning session of top diplomats focusing on Russia and its buildup near the Ukrainian border.

The session included Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Kuleba and Georgian Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani.

Longstanding tensions over Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014 have been exacerbated by Russian-backed separatists in the eastern border region of Donbas, along with a Russian military buildup decried by the West. Amid the buildup, Russia has accused Ukraine of provocations, a charge Kyiv denies.

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