In phone call, Erdogan asks Putin to declare ‘unilateral’ Ukraine ceasefire

Turkish leader, who has mediated between the warring sides in the past, set to speak with Zelensky later in the day

Turkey's President and leader of the Justice and Development (AK) Party, Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, in Ankara on January 4, 2023. (Adem ALTAN / AFP)
Turkey's President and leader of the Justice and Development (AK) Party, Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, in Ankara on January 4, 2023. (Adem ALTAN / AFP)

ISTANBUL, Turkey — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday pressed Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to declare a “unilateral” ceasefire in Ukraine.

“President Erdogan said that calls for peace and negotiations should be supported by a unilateral ceasefire and a vision for a fair solution,” his office quoted Erdogan as telling Putin in a telephone call.

Putin responded that he was open to dialogue with Ukraine if Kyiv accepts territories occupied by Moscow as Russian, the Kremlin said.

“Putin again confirmed Russia’s openness to serious dialogue on the condition of Kyiv authorities fulfilling the well-known and repeatedly voiced requirements of taking into account the new territorial realities,” the Kremlin said in a statement.

Russian troops occupy large swathes of eastern and southern Ukraine.

The Kremlin claims it has annexed the Donetsk, Lugansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions despite not controlling them in their entirety.

“The Russian side emphasized the destructive role of Western states, pumping the Kyiv regime with weapons and military equipment, providing it with operational information and targets,” the statement added.

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting in Moscow, Russia, January 5, 2023. (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Erdogan was due to follow the talks with a separate conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky later on Thursday.

The Turkish leader has used his good relations with both Moscow and Kyiv to try and mediate an end to the war.

Turkey hosted two early rounds of peace talks and helped strike a UN-backed agreement restoring Ukrainian grain deliveries across the Black Sea.

Erdogan has also repeatedly tried to bring Putin and Zelensky to Turkey for a peace summit.

During their phone call, Erdogan and Putin discussed the implementation of the grain deal

The Kremlin said the pair discussed “the unblocking of food and fertilizer supplies from Russia” and the need for “the removal of all barriers to Russian exports.”

Russia briefly exited the deal in October after a drone attack on its Black Sea Fleet. It re-entered the deal within days but officials have complained of restrictions on Russian products.

The ship Navi-Star sits full of grain as it waits to sail from the Odesa Sea Port, in Odesa, Ukraine, July 29, 2022. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)

Erdogan’s call for a ceasefire followed a proposal earlier Thursday by Russia’s spiritual leader Patriarch Kirill for an Orthodox Christmas truce this week.

Erdogan has been able to maintain good relations with Putin by refusing to join Western sanctions on Russia and ramping up bilateral trade during the war.

The two leaders now have tentative plans to set up a natural gas hub in Turkey that can offer Russia an alternate way of supplying Europe with fuel.

Erdogan’s office said that Turkey “has strengthened and will continue to strengthen the infrastructure” of the proposed hub.

The two leaders hope to “implement (the project) as soon as possible,” Erdogan’s office said.

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