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German chancellor begins first Turkey visit

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German Chancellor Olaf Scholz arrived in Turkey on Monday for talks on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who hopes to facilitate a solution via direct talks with Moscow, Agence France-Presse reported.

The meeting in the capital of Ankara will be the first between the leaders of the two NATO member states since Scholz replaced Angela Merkel, with whom Erdoğan forged a special relationship.

“@olafscholz is in Turkey for the first time as German chancellor,” the German embassy wrote on its Instagram account, sharing a picture of Scholz walking down his aircraft steps wearing a mask.

Ankara is playing a mediating role and has direct links to the two warring sides.

Turkey is a traditional ally of Kyiv but relies heavily on Russia for gas imports and tourist revenue. Erdoğan has called Moscow’s attacks on its pro-Western neighbor “unacceptable” but shied away from Western sanctions targeting the Russian economy.

For his part, the German chancellor visited Moscow before the start of hostilities and has spoken several times to Russian President Vladimir Putin since, while providing Ukraine with arms.

For Guenter Seufert, a researcher at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, Scholz’s visit aims to keep Ankara on side.

“Nobody is demanding that Turkey comply with the Western sanctions, but Turkey should not try to open extra channels to get around sanctions,” he told AFP.

The Europeans, according to Seufert, are carefully monitoring the arrival in İstanbul of thousands of Russian citizens fleeing their country on direct flights.

Among them, he said, could be businessmen who might try to transfer their companies in order to continue their operations from Turkish soil.

“As Turkey is relocating in its region and is trying to fix things with the West, Germany comes to say it’s ready to help but it will be an offer under condition — Turkey should not try to undermine sanctions,” Seufert said.

Scholz’s visit comes as Ankara seeks to mend fences with its regional rivals. Israeli President Isaac Herzog visited last week and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis followed on Sunday.

Last Thursday Turkey hosted the first talks between the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers since the invasion of Ukraine began on Feb. 24.

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