Cooperation between Turkey and Ukraine is vital for security in the Black Sea region, Kyiv Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Thursday, as ties between the two allies strengthen across the board. , including economy, defense, trade and tourism.
“Ukraine and Turkey are developing a clear vision for the future security of the Black Sea region,” Kuleba wrote in an article for Atlantic Council, an American think tank.
“It is time for NATO to start seeing this Ukrainian-Turkish partnership as a valuable additional force that can help ensure security and stability in the region,” he said.
Only joint action by NATO, including the Turkish ally, “will make it possible to prevent the Black Sea from falling under Russian domination and becoming the object of Moscow’s destabilizing activities”.
Speaking on relations with Ankara, Kuleba said the partnership has been strengthened by the quadriga 2 + 2 format of political and security consultations involving the foreign and defense ministers of the two countries.
“Priority cooperation initiatives currently include large infrastructure projects and the joint production of Turkish Bayraktar drones, while plans are also evolving to unite efforts in the production of Ukrainian Antonov aircraft,” he added.
More recently, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry released a video on Tuesday evening of what it said was its first use of the Turkish-made TB2 Bayraktar drone in the conflict, targeting artillery.
Ukraine recently used a Turkish-made Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV), the Bayraktar TB2, to destroy a howitzer used by pro-Russian separatists in the Donbass.
The introduction of the drone is a potential change in the conflict that has been going on for years, given that Turkish drones were used by Azerbaijan last year to subdue the Armenian army in Nagorno-Karabakh – another conflict post-Soviet frozen.
The Kremlin said on Wednesday that its fears over Turkey’s decision to sell strike drones to Ukraine were coming true and that Turkish drones risked destabilizing the situation in eastern Ukraine.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov echoed the Kremlin’s concerns, saying Russia was investigating reports that Ukraine had used the Turkish drone.
“This should give pause to those who give airtime to Ukraine’s stubborn demands for immediate admission into NATO,” he said.
Russian forces annexed the Crimean Peninsula to Ukraine in February 2014, with President Vladimir Putin formally dividing the region into two separate federal subjects of the Russian Federation the following month.
NATO member Turkey criticized Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and expressed support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity. The United States and the United Nations General Assembly also consider annexation to be illegal.
Fighting between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists in Donbass has left more than 13,000 dead since 2014, UN says
The region is one of the many sources of friction between Russia and Ukraine.
For its part, Latvia on Thursday welcomed Turkey’s support for Ukraine.
The European Union should follow Turkey’s example for its support for Ukraine, said Latvian Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Artis Pabriks.
“(The) European Union should take (an) example from Turkey in helping Ukraine fight invaders, and support Poland, Lithuania and Latvia in building a modern border due to hybrid attacks. Right now Poland and (the) Baltic States are doing the EU’s job and paying for it, ”he wrote on Twitter.
Latvia had signaled in June that it could be the second EU and NATO member state to acquire Turkish drones which have had resounding successes in this area, after the purchase by Poland.
Growing strategic partnership
“In recent years, the strategic partnership between Ukraine and Turkey has reached the highest level in three decades since Ukraine restored its independence in 1991,” Kuleba said, indicating that the two countries will celebrate 30 years of diplomatic relations in 2022.
He said new agreements are being prepared ahead of next year’s Strategy Council.
“The two sides see the February 2022 meeting as an opportunity to finally sign a long-awaited Turkish-Ukrainian free trade agreement after years of negotiations,” he noted.
To a large extent, countries have managed to keep bilateral trade volume at $ 4.7 billion (TL 32.68 billion) in the face of the pandemic.
In the first quarter of 2021, the bilateral trade volume increased by 18% and was achieved at around $ 1.5 billion.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Zelenskyy recently agreed to finalize negotiations for the free trade agreement to increase the volume of trade between countries to $ 10 billion.
Last year, despite the pandemic, around one million Ukrainians visited Turkey, while nearly 150,000 Turkish tourists visited Ukraine.
Another important factor contributing to the positive ties between the countries is the presence of strong Crimean Tatar communities in Ukraine and Turkey, Ukraine’s top diplomat noted.
“We commend President Erdogan for his personal involvement in the release of a number of Ukrainian political prisoners, the Crimean Tatars, from Russian captivity.”
Ankara is one of Kiev’s most important partners in the recently launched Crimean Platform, he said.
Ukraine established the Crimean Platform in October 2020 as part of its strategy to disoccupy Crimea.
Turkey was one of the first countries to express support for the Crimean Platform to be held on August 23.
The Crimean Tatars are an indigenous Muslim community on the Black Sea Peninsula. Most of the Crimean Tatars opposed Moscow’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula. Russian authorities have since cracked down on the community, banning their gathering and their TV channel, as well as the detention and imprisonment of dozens of activists.
Claiming that Kiev and Ankara are friends in need, he recalled that Ukraine also supported Turkey during the forest fires that raged in the country this summer.
“Kiev sent two large Antonov firefighting planes and a number of specialized helicopters to Turkey. Ukrainian firefighters have been working day and night to put out the fires and keep them away from tourist areas, ”he said.