Erdogan calls for ‘dignified way out’ of Ukraine quagmire

Published September 21, 2022
New York: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan holds up a photo of a Syrian refugee camp in Turkiye during his address at the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday.—Reuters
New York: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan holds up a photo of a Syrian refugee camp in Turkiye during his address at the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday.—Reuters

UNITED NATIONS: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday called for a “dignified way out” of the seven-month crisis sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Erdogan has been using his good working relations with both Moscow and Kyiv to try and find a diplomatic solution to the war.

He spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky by phone moments before addressing the opening session of the United Nations General Assembly with an urgent appeal for peace.

“Together, we need to find a reasonably practical diplomatic solution that will give both sides a dignified way out of the crisis,” Erdogan told the United Nations. He said a lasting peace must be based on protecting Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

“We will continue to increase our efforts to end the war that has flared up again in recent days on the basis of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and independence.

“I invite international organisations and all countries to give sincere support to Turkiye’s efforts.” Erdogan delivered his address hours after four Moscow-held regions of Ukraine announced plans to vote in the coming days on annexation by Russia.

Nato member Turkiye never recognised the Kremlin’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in 2014.

Vote on annexation by Russia

Moscow-held regions of Ukraine will urgently vote on annexation by Russia, separatist officials said on Tuesday, as Kyiv’s troops wrest back territory captured by Moscow’s forces.

Separatist authorities in the eastern Donetsk and Lugansk regions, as well as in the southern Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, said they would hold the vote over five days beginning Friday this week.

The regions are on the frontlines of a sweeping Ukrainian counter-offensive that has seen Kyiv’s forces retake hundreds of towns and villages that had been controlled by Russia for months. Their integration into Russia would represent a major escalation of the conflict as Moscow could try to say it was defending its own territory from Ukrainian forces.

Washington, Berlin and Paris denounced the ballots and said the international community would never recognise the results while Nato said the votes marked a “further escalation” of the war.

Kyiv said the “sham” referendums were meaningless and vowed to “eliminate” threats posed by Russia, saying its forces would keep retaking territory regardless of what Moscow or its proxies announced.

Denis Miroshnichenko, a separatist leader in the Lugansk region, said pro-Moscow lawmakers had voted to hold the vote from September 23 to 27.

Shortly afterwards, a news portal associated with separatist authorities in Donetsk said the region would hold a ballot over the same dates.

Large parts of the industrial Donbas area — made up of Donetsk and Lugansk — have been controlled by Moscow-backed separatists since 2014, after nationwide demonstrations ousted a Kremlin-friendly Ukra­inian president. White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the referendums were “an affront to the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity”. “If this does transpire, the United States will never recognize Russia’s claims to any purportedly annexed parts of Ukraine,” he said.

Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the referendums would change nothing. “Ukraine has every right to liberate its territories and will keep liberating them whatever Russia has to say,” he said in a statement online.

Published in Dawn, September 21st, 2022

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