According to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey is working to resolve a hostage crisis between Russia and Ukraine in order to deescalate tensions between the two countries.
“We are now working to end the hostage situation. We’re making progress and have reached a certain point. On the other hand, we moved forward with the grain corridor “Erdogan stated this in an interview with PBS NewsHour, which aired on Monday.
Following a two-day visit to Uzbekistan, Erdogan is now in New York City for the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly, where he is meeting with heads of state and government on the sidelines.
“In Uzbekistan, I met extensively with (Russian President Vladimir) Putin.” I realised they are attempting to complete this as soon as possible. This is a serious situation.
“At this point, for example, an agreement on the exchange of 200 hostages has been reached.” This is a positive development. Because, with these hostages, a significant step has been taken. Officials are currently managing its technical dimension. “With this, we will have made good progress,” Erdogan said.
Erdogan emphasised that he has told both Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, that “there is no winner in a war that results in people dying.”
The president stated that Turkey has pursued a balanced policy toward Russia and Ukraine since the conflict began in February, and that he prefers to listen to both sides.
“That is why we are so determined to bring these leaders together. Let us get them together. I want to hear everything they have to say. We haven’t yet succeeded, but I’m not giving up hope “He continued.
Concerning the grain corridor, Erdogan reiterated his desire for Russian grain exports to begin as soon as possible, saying, “My only desire is to ensure the shipment of products to underdeveloped or poor countries, not developed countries.”
On July 22, Turkey, the United Nations, Russia, and Ukraine signed an agreement in Istanbul to resume grain exports from three Ukrainian Black Sea ports that had been halted following the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine war.
To oversee the shipments, a Joint Coordination Center in Istanbul was established with officials from the three countries and the UN.
Since the first vessel sailed under the agreement on August 1, more than 150 ships have transported over 3 million tonnes of Ukrainian agricultural products.
Ties with US, F-16 issue
In response to a question about bilateral relations with the United States, Erdogan stated, “I can’t say it’s at an ideal point.”
He claimed that bilateral trade between the two countries has not reached the desired level of $100 billion set during US President Donald Trump’s presidency.
“In other words, the volume of trade between Turkey and the United States should not be $20, $25, or $30 billion. We must outperform them. Furthermore, we are not performing at the desired level in the defence industry “Erdogan continued.
Regarding the two countries’ dispute over F-16 fighter jets, Erdogan stated that the US is doing “wrong” to a friendly country by making a political decision against Türkiye.
Last October, Ankara requested F-16s and modernization kits. The $6 billion deal would include the sale of 40 F-16 fighter jets as well as modernization kits for 79 Turkish Air Force aircraft.
However, in July, the US House of Representatives passed legislation that added a new stumbling block to the sale.
It prohibits the sale unless President Joe Biden certifies that the transfer is in the best interests of the United States and guarantees to Congress that the Turkish government has not “violated Greek sovereignty, including through territorial overflights,” in the 120 days preceding the transfer.
Turkey, for its part, has stated unequivocally that Greece-related conditions are not “binding,” and has expressed hope that the United States will not fall for such “games.”
Erdogan also chastised the US for providing all kinds of assistance to Greece in exchange for F-16 jets but not to Turkey.
“Türkiye’s job in this case is to take care of itself. Otherwise, we don’t have a problem with America,” he added.
Meanwhile, Erdogan met privately with US Senator Lindsey Graham on Monday, who has previously stated his support for the Biden administration’s decision to sell F-16 fighter jets to Turkey.
‘Türkiye is a part of the world; it is neither East nor West.’
Erdogan said of Turkey’s potential membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), “I have to say this very clearly: We are part of the world; neither East nor West.”
After participating as a dialogue partner at this year’s SCO summit in Uzbekistan, Türkiye may take a further step at the 2023 summit in India, he said, adding that Ankara “targets” membership.
The eight-member organisation, founded in 2001, aims to strengthen friendly, good neighbourly relations and mutual trust among member states.
“Unfortunately, we have been denied membership in the EU for the past 52 years.” There is no other country in the EU in our position. They are still delaying the process. We are, however, a NATO member. “Despite the fact that we are a NATO member, even NATO countries keep us busy in the EU process,” he added.
Erdogan stated that the EU cannot question Turkey about who it meets with, adding: “We will not be held accountable to the EU on this point while these talks are ongoing… I bargain with all countries because we are all a part of the same world.”
Turkey applied for membership in the EU in 1987 and has been a candidate country since 1999. Negotiations for full membership began in October 2005, but have since stalled due to political obstacles erected by some countries.
NATO bids from Sweden and Finland
Erdogan reiterated that Turkey will not support Sweden’s and Finland’s NATO membership bids unless they meet their promises in the fight against terrorism.
“If you put forward your fight against the terrorists, we will provide you with every possible assistance. Of course, our legislature is the final arbiter in this matter “He stated.
In June, Sweden and Finland formally applied to join NATO, spurred on by Russia’s war in Ukraine.
However, Turkey, a NATO member for over 70 years, objected to the membership bids, accusing the countries of tolerating and even supporting terrorist groups.
A trilateral agreement signed in June states that Finland and Sweden will not provide support to the YPG/PYD, the PKK’s Syrian offshoot, or the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), the group behind the failed coup in Turkey in 2016, and that Ankara will provide full support to Finland and Sweden in the face of threats to their national security.
To join NATO, Turkey’s parliament must ratify Finland and Sweden’s membership bids.
“If terrorist activities continue, they will be unable to join NATO because NATO does not support terrorist organisations.” “It is a terrorist-fighting organisation,” Erdogan explained.
“We will show them the convenience we can,” Erdogan said if terrorists are not allowed in Sweden and Finland.