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Turkey calls for Russia, Ukraine truce ahead of Erdoğan-Putin meeting

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Turkey on Tuesday called for a ceasefire in Ukraine just days ahead of a likely meeting between the leaders of Turkey and Russia in the Kazakh capital Astana, Agence France-Presse reported.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who won plaudits for securing a grain deal as well as Russia-Ukraine prisoner swap, has long sought to bring together Kyiv and Moscow for truce talks that neither side particularly wants.

NATO member Turkey, which has conducted a diplomatic balancing act throughout the conflict in Ukraine, has good relations with its two Black Sea neighbours — Vladimir Putin’s Russia and Ukraine.

“Unfortunately (both sides) have quickly moved away from diplomacy” since the talks between Russian and Ukrainian negotiators in İstanbul in March, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said in a televised interview.

“As the Ukraine-Russian war drags on, unfortunately, the situation gets worse and more complicated,” added the Turkish diplomat, who called for an immediate ceasefire.

“A ceasefire must be established as soon as possible. The sooner the better,” he said.

‘Viable ceasefire’

Erdoğan, who has a good working relationship with Putin despite disagreements on several issues including in Syria, is likely to meet with the Russian leader in Astana on Thursday, a Turkish official told AFP speaking on condition of anonymity.

Turkey has refrained from joining Western sanctions against Russia.

Erdoğan, who met Putin on the sidelines of a regional summit in Uzbekistan last month, is keen to boost trade with Moscow as he tries to stabilize the battered Turkish economy in the run up to elections next June.

Ankara has bowed to pressure from the United States and confirmed the last three Turkish banks still processing Russian bank card payments were pulling the plug.

The decision followed weeks of increasingly blunt warnings from Washington for Turkey to either limit economic ties with Russia or face the threat of sanctions itself.

Erdoğan has not yet commented on mass Russian strikes across Ukraine on Monday, which Ukrainian emergency services said killed at least 19 people and wounded more than 100.

Çavuşoğlu held a telephone call with Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba after the attacks, a Turkish diplomatic source said, without elaborating further.

During the interview on Tuesday, Çavuşoğlu called for a “just peace” based on Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

“There must be a just peace for Ukraine. Where is the war going on? It’s going on Ukrainian soil,” he said.

“A process that will ensure Ukraine’s border and territorial integrity should start. Without a ceasefire, it is not possible to talk about those issues in a healthy way: a viable ceasefire and a just peace.”

Turkey has rejected Russia’s annexation of four Ukrainian provinces as a “grave violation” of international law and called for negotiations to end the conflict.

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