ANKARA

Turkiye hopes that its Black Sea neighbors Russia and Ukraine return to the negotiating table as soon as possible to seek a solution, said the Turkish president on Wednesday.

Speaking to journalists on the presidential plane returning from Africa, cutting short his official visits due to the Ukraine crisis, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he will continue telephone diplomacy with Russian President Vladimir Putin and hopefully make progress in resolving the tension over Ukraine.

“We have the same political, military and economic relations with Ukraine. So we can’t give up on them, because our country’s interests here are very high,” he said.

“On the other hand, with Russia, we can’t give up on it either, because we have a really advanced relationship at the moment. Our aim is to take such steps that we can resolve this issue without giving up on any of them.”

Russia’s moves

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday announced that Moscow was recognizing two eastern Ukrainian breakaway regions as “independent” states, followed quickly by an order sending Russian forces there to “maintain peace.”

The announcements drew widespread global condemnation, with Western countries announcing new sanctions on Russia.

Erdogan called the recognition unacceptable, stressing Turkiye’s efforts to help reach a resolution.

In 2014, after invading Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, Moscow began to support separatist forces in eastern Ukraine against the central government, a policy that it has maintained for the past seven years. The conflict has taken more than 13,000 lives, according to the UN.

Putin’s latest moves follow Russia amassing some 100,000 troops and heavy equipment in and around its neighbor, with the US and Western countries accusing it of setting the stage for an invasion.

Russia has denied it is preparing an invasion and instead claims Western countries undermined its security through NATO’s expansion towards its borders.

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