Return Crimea to ‘rightful owners’ – POLITICO

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said Russian President Vladimir Putin must return all land occupied by Russia, including Crimea.

The Black Sea peninsula should be returned to its “rightful owners”, Erdoğan told PBS NewsHour on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, in remarks likely to provoke ire in Moscow.

Asked whether Russia should be allowed to keep Crimea as part of a negotiated end to the war, Erdoğan said: “They are our descendants at the same time, the people who live there. If you took this step forward, if you could leave us, you would also relieve the Crimean Tatars and Ukraine. That’s what we’ve always said. »

Erdoğan said he had been telling Putin since 2014. “But since then, unfortunately, no steps have been taken,” he added.

The remarks make him the latest world leader with ongoing ties to Russia to deliver a rhetorical jab at Putin in recent days. India’s Narendra Modi raised concerns last week about the Russian president’s ongoing war on Ukraine, and Putin himself admitted that China’s Xi Jinping had also expressed “concerns”.

Erdoğan told PBS that when he met Putin in Uzbekistan last week, the Russian president gave him the impression that he was “willing to end this as soon as possible.” Erdoğan also said that 200 hostages will be exchanged between Ukraine and Russia.

In the interview, Erdoğan continued to portray Turkey, which is a member of NATO, as a neutral party in the Russian-Ukrainian war, saying a conclusion to hostilities would not be achieved by “taking sides”. However, he also said that “the Russian invasion cannot be justified”.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky promised last week that his country would liberate Crimea from Russian occupiers. Putin sent forces into Crimea in early 2014, illegally annexing the Black Sea peninsula, then sparking a years-long conflict in the eastern Donbass region.

Since the start of the war in February, Ankara has held talks with top-level officials in Moscow and Kyiv and brokered a grain deal alongside the UN to ensure safe food exports out of blocked Ukrainian ports. , although some Western diplomats suspect Turkey of playing a double game.


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