Leaders of Germany, Turkey press for cease-fire in Ukraine

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkey and Germany pledged Monday to continue diplomatic work for a cease-fire in Ukraine, while emphasizing the importance of their bilateral ties and their NATO partnership.

“As NATO allies, we have confirmed our common opinions and worries,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at a news conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who was on his first official trip to Turkey since taking office in December.

Erdogan also highlighted his country’s relations with Moscow, which saw Turkey host a recent diplomatic conference last week that included a meeting between the foreign ministers of Russia and Ukraine.

“We must protect our friendship with both Mr. Zelenskyy and Mr. Putin,” he said.

Turkey has close energy, defense and trade deals with Russia. Unlike Europe, Turkey has not closed its airspace to Russian planes but Erdogan said Turkey has done “whatever was necessary within United Nations rules.”

Erdogan avoided a direct answer to what Turkey would do with its Russian-made surface-to-air missiles, saying it was too early to know. The United States has been infuriated by Turkey’s purchase of the S-400 missiles, saying they pose a risk to NATO systems, sanctioning defense officials and kicking Turkey out of its stealth fighter jet program.

Erdogan added that Turkey had been providing support for Ukraine “despite Russia” and more than other NATO countries, sending more than 50 trucks of humanitarian aid. Turkish-made Bayraktar drones are also being used by Ukraine to fight back against the Russian invasion.

Scholz stressed the need for a diplomatic solution to the conflict in Ukraine and called on Russia to immediately stop its attacks on the country.

“With each day, with each bomb, Russia is moving further away from the international community,” he said.

Scholz also praised Turkey for closing the Bosporus to warships from parties to the conflict in Ukraine, a move that mainly affects Russia’s access to the Mediterranean from the Black Sea but allows Russian ships back to their home ports.

Germany and Turkey have significant trade relations, with bilateral trade 2021 rising above $41 billion in 2021. Erdogan said he hopes trade will reach $50 billion this year. Some 3 million people of Turkish origin live in Germany, closely linking the two countries.

Germany also considers Turkey an important partner in efforts to handle Europe’s migration influx, especially with thousands of people trying to reach Europe from Turkey each year.

But relations have been tested by Turkey’s human rights record, including the jailing of German journalists and an activist, as well as Erdogan lashing out against European leaders.

Frank Jordans
Frank Jordans
Berlin correspondent covering Germany, climate and science