Ankara, Jul 8 (EFE).- “There is no doubt that Ukraine deserves membership of NATO,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said early Saturday during a joint press conference with Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
The two men faced reporters after nearly three hours of talks at the Vahdettin Mansion in Istanbul that included discussion of Kyiv’s NATO ambitions, Turkey’s efforts to end the war that began 500 days ago with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the future of the deal to facilitate shipments of Ukrainian grain.
Insisting that no country has done more than Turkey to foster a diplomatic solution to the conflict, Erdogan said that “both sides should go back to peace talks” in pursuit of a “just” peace in which “there are no losers.”
He also pledged Turkish support for reconstruction in Ukraine.
Zelenskyy thanked Erdogan for his endorsement of Ukraine’s bid to join NATO ahead of the Atlantic Alliance’s summit next week in Vilnius.
“I’m grateful to Turkey for supporting our territorial integrity and sovereignty,” the Ukrainian said. “We talked about the situation in Crimea that Russia still unlawfully controls and uses as a bridgehead of threats and danger. In any case we will renew our control over Crimea.”
“Today we focused our conversation on how your leadership can renew peace and normal world order when the interests of all nations are balanced,” Zelenskyy said, addressing Erdogan.
“Black Sea should be an area of safety, cooperation and not an area of war or any crises or so-called frozen conflicts that can ignite at any minute and strike and affect people’s lives,” Ukraine’s president said.
Erdogan, who last year brokered an exchange of prisoners between Russia and Ukraine, said that he and Zelenskyy talked about the possibility of future exchanges.
“Next month (Vladimir) Putin will pay a visit to Turkey,” Erdogan said, adding that he planned to discuss additional prisoner swaps with the Russian president.
Turkey likewise played a major role in launching the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which saw Moscow and Kyiv agree to create a safe corridor for transport of grain, fertilizer, and ammonia.
The deal has enabled Ukraine to export more than 30.2 million tons of grain since July 2022.
With an original term of 120 days, the pact has been renewed several times, but Russia says that it sees no reason to agree to another extension when the current term expires on July 18, citing persistent obstacles to exports of Russian ammonia.
Erdogan, however, sounded optimistic Saturday about the prospects of prolonging the initiative.
“We are working on how long we can extend (the deal) after July 17. Our hope is that, it will be extended at least once every three months, not every two months. We will make an effort in this regard and try to increase the duration of it to two years,” he said.