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Erdogan: Turkey will not join sanctions against Russia, as it cannot allow its citizens to freeze without Russian gas | & More

The Turkish authorities will not be able to join sanctions against Russia, as they cannot allow their citizens to freeze without Russian gas, Turkish President Recep Erdogan said to Turkish reporters aboard his plane on his way back from the NATO summit.

“In terms of sanctions, we appreciate certain UN lines, but let’s not forget that we cannot put aside our relationship with Russia. You know, I explained this a long time ago, because today, if you consider just natural gas, we get about half of the natural gas we consume from Russia. In addition, today we are building our Akkuyu nuclear power plant with Russia. We can’t leave all that aside. When I say this to [French President Emmanuel] Macron, he replies: “You’re right.” So it can’t be helped, we have to maintain our sensitivity on this issue. First, I cannot leave my people to freeze in winter, and second, I cannot completely reset this industry of ours,” Hurriyet newspaper quoted him as saying on Friday.

According to Erdogan, authorities in the republic “must protect their citizens”. “We have a country of 85 million people. We do all kinds of obligations that fall on us. In addition, we have sent 56 trucks with humanitarian aid for Ukrainians. We are supplying them with food, clothing, medicine. Supplies will increase,” he added.

Ankara has repeatedly stated that Turkey does not intend to join sanctions against Russia, so as not to damage its own economy and leave an open channel of dialogue with Russia.

Claims such as the one that Turkey could supply Ukraine with S-400s in exchange for the lifting of sanctions are aimed at hitting Ankara and creating problems for it.

“First of all, we are at the same point today, as we said before, this S-400 business is closed for us. This is our property for our security. The other thing is that our head of the Office of Public Affairs in the presidential administration [Fahrettin Altun] has already given the necessary response with all sensitivity to what [American newspaper] The Wall Street Journal has written. This answer is enough for them, there is no need for anything more. Because their whole job is to make a mess of things. They are interested in “what other blow we can inflict on Turkey and create problems for it”. We immediately interfere in these processes, and they do not succeed,” Hurriyet quoted Erdogan as saying…. Read More

Turkey to Pull Out Hundreds of Soldiers from Syria to Fight PKK in Iraq

Some 400 Turkish forces deployed in the de-escalation zone in northwestern Syria would likely redeploy in northern Iraq to fight the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), sources told the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Sunday (March 20).

“Four hundred Turkish troops have packed up and finished their preparations to withdraw from the de-escalation zone as part of an initial batch that will exit the area,” the sources said.

There are more than 13,500 Turkish soldiers deployed in 60 military points across the de-escalation zone in Idlib and the countryside of Aleppo, Hama and Latakiya.

Last year, the Turkish army carried out ground and air raids against the PKK in northern Iraq.

Moscow Claims Roman Abramovich is No Longer Involved in Ukraine-Russia Peace Talks

As Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich scrambles to find a buyer for Chelsea Football Club while moving two of his yachts to Turkey to avoid them being seized by European authorities, the Ukrainian government rode to the rescue on Wednesday (March 23) by claiming Abramovich was acting as a critical go-between during the ongoing peace talks between the Ukrainian government and Russia.

Abramovich’s involvement in the talks was widely reported last month, but in spite of this, the West hasn’t spared him from their sanctions against Russian oligarchs. Now, the US media is reporting that one of Abramovich’s properties in Aspen, Colo. could be seized if Washington orders more sanctions against him. Fortunately for him, Abramovich wasn’t included in the latest round of sanctions announced Thursday (March 24) morning as President Biden met with his fellow leaders across NATO, the G-7 and EU.

But that doesn’t mean he’s in the clear.

On Thursday, the Kremlin said that while the sanctioned oligarch played an early role in peace talks between Russia and Ukraine, the process was now in the hands of the two sides’ negotiating teams.

“He did take part at the initial stage,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters. “Now the negotiations are between the two teams, the Russians and Ukrainians.”

Abramovich, who is Jewish and has Israeli citizenship, was one of the most powerful businessmen who earned fabulous fortunes after the 1991 break-up of the Soviet Union. Forbes has estimated his net worth at $13.3 billion.

U.S. Plots to Upset Russia-Turkey Relations as Ankara Plays Key Role in Ukraine Peace Talks

With a plan in motion to arm Ukraine with Slovakia’s S-300 air defense system, US officials are also pushing fellow NATO member Turkey to send its Russian-made S-400. The US is prepared to send the Patriot missile defense system to replace it, and possibly allow Ankara to purchase the F-35.

The Biden administration sees several benefits in the plan. It would provide Ukraine with more advanced air defense—the S-400 is a newer upgrade from the S-300—while it would also integrate Turkey with other NATO states that use the Patriot system. Moreover, Washington believes the move would upset the relationship between Ankara and Moscow.

While Washington may enjoy seeing Russian missiles shooting down Russian aircraft over Ukraine, severing ties between Ankara and Moscow could have steep consequences, risking an end to the Turkey-sponsored peace talks and even an escalation of the war itself.

Turkey is currently playing a leading role in negotiations to end the conflict in Ukraine, hosting the highest-level talks so far. Turkey’s foreign minister reported Sunday (March 20) that several points of agreement had been made between Kiev and Moscow.

Should it agree to the arms shipment to Ukraine, however, Turkey may lose its perceived neutrality in the talks and could deal a major blow to diplomacy.

Kremlin Rejects Proposed Zelensky-Putin Meeting, Citing “No Significant Progress” in Ceasefire Talks

At a moment Russian forces are believed to be on the cusp of taking the major southeast city of Mariupol, after the Ukrainians rejected the Kremlin’s terms of surrender for the city, a fresh statement from the Russian side has yet again cited “no significant progress” in ceasefire talks, while stating Moscow is not ready for a proposed meeting with Zelensky.

Starting last week reports emerged that Turkey was working hard to get Putin and Zelensky at the negotiating table in face to face talks. In addition to Turkey, Israel is also said to be working diplomatically behind the scenes to bring to county’s two leaders for direct talks leading to a halt to the fighting.

Given Russia’s overwhelming manpower and military superiority, despite reports of serious losses, it’s not expected that the Russian leader would agree to any top level negotiations like this anytime soon.

“For us to speak of a meeting between the two presidents, homework has to be done. Talks have to be held and their results agreed upon,” Putin spokesperson Dimitry Peskov said Monday (March 21), according to Reuters.

“There has been no significant progress so far.”

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