Turkey conceded Saturday that Russia’s war on Ukraine “will not end easily”, despite Ankara’s repeated efforts to arrange peace talks between Kyiv and Moscow, Agence France-Presse reported.
NATO member Turkey, which has friendly relations with both of its Black Sea neighbors, has positioned itself as a neutral player and tried to broker a truce.
But the continuing war, which entered its 10th month, is dashing Ankara’s hopes.
“It appears that this war will not end easily,” Defense Minister Hulusi Akar told journalists during a year-end briefing in the capital Ankara.
He pointed to Western support for Ukraine and Russia’s statements that it would not give up for his reasoning.
“It would not be wrong to say that despite all our goodwill and call for a ceasefire, this war is likely to continue in 2023,” Akar said.
Turkey, which helped broker a deal with the United Nations for the export of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea this summer, is seeking to bring together Russian and Ukrainian leaders for negotiations to end the war.
It already hosted a meeting between the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers during the early stages of the war in March and held other talks between the two warring parties in İstanbul.
“As Turkey, we call for a ceasefire, at least a humanitarian ceasefire. Then a permanent ceasefire and then peace talks,” Akar said.
Turkey has however shied away from Western sanctions against Russia with which it has boosted trade while supplying Ukraine with combat drones.
‘Strong Turkey, strong NATO’
The minister also called on Sweden and Finland to meet Turkey’s security demands in return for Ankara’s consent for their NATO bid.
“We support NATO’s open-door policy. We are not against Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership,” he said.
Sweden and Finland abandoned decades of military non-alignment and applied to join the US-led defense alliance in response to Russia’s February invasion of Ukraine.
Turkey and Hungary are the only NATO members yet to ratify the Nordic neighbors’ applications.
Sweden’s refusal to extradite a journalist Ankara implicates in a 2016 coup attempt has however sparked anger.
The issue was discussed during the Swedish foreign minister’s visit to Ankara on Thursday.
“We expect them to cut ties with terrorists,” Akar said.
“They say, ‘There’s a war between Ukraine and Russia, we expect NATO to be strong’. Turkey is one of the most important members of NATO,” he said.
Meeting Turkey’s security needs “actually and logically means Turkey being strong… Don’t forget a strong Turkey is a strong NATO.”