Erdogan offers to mediate between Ukraine, Russia amid rising tensions
(Update 1: Changes headline, lede, adds details on Turkey, Ukraine talks)
Kiev, Feb 3 (EFE).- Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Thursday offered himself as mediator between Ukraine and Russia in a bid to ease tensions caused by a buildup of Russian troops on its border with Ukraine.
“Turkey is ready to do its part to resolve the crisis between two friendly countries that it neighbours in the Black Sea. I said during talks again that we could happily host a summit at the leaders’ level, or host technical-level discussions,” Erdogan told reporters after talks with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kiev.
Western allies fear a Russian attack may be imminent as Moscow has amassed 100,000 troops on the border with Ukraine in recent months.
The Kremlin has denied it is plotting an invasion.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned on Thursday that the buildup of Russian troops was the largest since the Cold War.
“Over the last days we have seen a significant movement of Russian military forces into Belarus. This is the biggest Russian deployment there since the Cold War,” the NATO chief told reporters at the Alliance’s headquarters in Brussels.
He added that “a wide range of modern military capabilities” had been deployed in Belarus “combined with Russia’s annual nuclear forces exercise expected to take place this month.”
Moscow and Minsk have agreed to hold joint military drills between 10-20 February.
“NATO continues to call on Russia to de-escalate. Any further Russian aggression would have severe consequences and carry a heavy price,” Stoltenberg warned.
The Norwegian politician said that NATO was willing to engage in a “meaningful dialogue” with Moscow and that it has already sent written proposals to Russia and “allies were committed to finding a political solution to the crisis.”
On Wednesday, the United States said it would deploy an additional 3,000 troops to Germany, Poland and Romania amid an escalation of tensions.
Stoltenberg welcomed the move and said it was “a powerful signal of US commitment.”
Moscow condemned the US decision to send extra troops and said it was a “destructive step” that would heighten tensions and reduce the scope of diplomacy and political dialogue. EFE