The spokesman for Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) stated on Monday that the realistic solution to the Ukraine-Russia war is to eliminate Russia’s security concerns, part of Turkey’s policy of trying to avoid a crisis with Russia while defending Ukraine’s territorial integrity in principle, following a meeting of the 50-seat Central Decision and Executive Board (MKYK) chaired by Turkish president and party chairman Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
After Turkey’s transition to a presidential system of governance in 2018, contrary to election promises, the country quickly turned into a party state to the extent that MKYK meetings took on more importance than cabinet meetings, and critical decisions regarding domestic and foreign policy began to be taken by the board.
Claiming that the current situation emerged because the invasion of Crimea in 2014 was ignored by NATO and European Union member countries, party spokesman and Erdoğan loyalist Ömer Çelik suggested that peace should be established on the suggestions expressed by the Turkish president.
However, Çelik did not elaborate on what kind of solutions Erdoğan proposes other than his routine suggestions such as ending the war as soon as possible, an urgent cease-fire and reaching its conclusion through negotiations. Erdoğan describes Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a “military operation” and a crisis between the two countries.
Erdoğan’s spokesman Ömer Çelik
Trying to maintain a balanced policy, Erdoğan tries not to anger Russian President Vladimir Putin while attempting to show that Turkey is a staunch member of NATO. Turkey, which declared that it would close its straits to the passage of warships in accordance with the Montreux Convention, asked countries including Russia not to send naval vessels to the straits. Military experts say Russia has enough warships in the Black Sea and will not be affected by this.
Apparently, Spokesman Çelik wanted to clarify Turkey’s position on sanctions on Russia, claiming that Turkey “participated in the UN sanctions” and but was far from imposing any other sanctions. However, he failed to mention that a decision of no sanctions was taken at the UN since China and Russia have veto rights in the UN Security Council.
Çelik reiterated Turkey’s position that it is strongly against the destruction of the territorial integrity and political sovereignty of Ukraine while at the same time arguing that peace will not be achieved by a one-sided perspective.
“It is necessary to be realistic, to act realistically. Russia’s security concerns should also be addressed. For Russia, there should be no concerns about its borders, and a sensitivity to this should be created,” said Çelik, adding that it doesn’t mean that Turkey sees the invasion as legitimate.
Çelik claimed that a solution that will fulfil the demands of both countries is possible and that Turkish diplomacy can accomplish it. According to him, “Turkish diplomacy has the requisite experience and knowledge.”
Considering that Turkey has had maritime boundary problems with Greece for years and that a final solution has not been reached in divided Cyprus, the claim that Turkey is a diplomatic problem-solver does not seem realistic.
Despite the fact that Çelik is only the spokesperson of the ruling party and has no official duties, he attended an urgent security meeting at the presidential palace right after the invasion of Ukraine started, along with the head of intelligence and the ministers of interior and defense, which is uncommon even in the Turkish political tradition. The opposition questioned Çelik’s role at the meeting, accusing Erdoğan of mingling party and state interests.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu could not attend the meeting because he was in Kazakhstan, and interestingly no representative from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was invited.
Meanwhile, the foreign ministers of Ukraine, Russia and Turkey will meet in southern Turkey on Thursday, Ankara announced, as the war in Ukraine intensifies.
“God willing, we will hold this trilateral meeting in Antalya on Thursday” on the sidelines of a diplomatic forum, Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu said Monday in comments published by the official Anadolu news agency.
The Antalya Diplomacy Forum (ADF) is a series of panel discussions that aim to serve as an “excellent” platform for regional and global actors. Nordic Monitor previously reported that the forum was established to overcome Turkey’s isolation in foreign policy. The ADF, which is generally attended by ministers and heads of state from African and Middle Eastern countries in particular, will attract unexpected attention as it will host the meeting of the foreign ministers of Ukraine and Russia.