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Erdogan to Russia: We are addressing the Assad regime not you in Syria 

February 3, 2020 at 5:28 pm

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (R) hold a joint press conference following their meeting at the Mariinsky Palace in Kiev, Ukraine on 3 February, 2020 [Metin Aktaş/Anadolu Agency]

Turkish President Erdogan today met his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky in Kiev to discuss improving joint cooperation.

Erdogan and Zelenskiy discussed how to “enhance strategic partnership and cooperation in all areas of interaction,” and attended a Ukraine-Turkey business forum.

“Turkey is enhancing its strategic cooperation with Ukraine and increasing its geopolitical power through leader-to-leader diplomacy,” Erdogan told reporters after the meeting.

Stressing the humanitarian crisis in Idlib after the Syrian regime’s attack, Erdogan said: “It is getting difficult to carry this burden in Turkey’s Syrian border. Now, close to one million refugees at the Turkish border are waiting. Turkey also hosts around four million refugees.”

READ: Turkey, Ukraine to boost defence cooperation

“Today eight people, including three civilians, five soldiers, martyred in shelling by Assad regime forces in Idlib, a de-escalation zone. I want to especially tell the Russian authorities that we are addressing the [Syrian] regime here, not you, and do not stand in our way. Turkey has retaliated against this bloody attack as it did previously.”

Erdogan, who has been strengthening ties with Russia in recent years, has adamantly opposed Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region, speaking up for the rights of the Crimean Tatars, an ethnic Turkic minority.

Underlining his support to Crimean Tatar in Ukraine’s Crimea region, “Turkey does not recognise annexation of Crimea, reiterates its support to sovereignty, territorial integrity of Ukraine,” he said.

Trade between Turkey and Ukraine reached $4.55 billion in 2019. Turkey’s exports to the country amounted to some $1.95 billion, while its imports came in at $2.6 billion, according to the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat) data.