Erdogan angers Russia in Ukraine amid tensions in Syria and Libya

Turkey will continue to support Ukraine’s territorial integrity and recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea as “illegitimate”, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday when he paid an official visit to Kyiv.

Erdogan’s remarks on Ukraine’s integrity and the Crimean takeover by Russia have come as Turkey’s relations grow increasingly complicated with its apparent “ally” over other spheres of activity, such as in Syria and Libya where the two support opposing parties.

In response, Russia’s presidential spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that they do not agree with Erdogan’s remarks.

“We cannot agree with the language used in this context. We have repeatedly said that any concerns regarding Crimean Tatars are groundless. President [Vladimir]

Putin explained the real state of things [to Erdogan] more than once,” Russia’s state-run news agency TASS cited Peskov as saying.

The spokesman also reiterated that “a valid invitation [was made] to the Turkish president from his Russian counterpart to visit Crimea” in order to see everything with eyes and to have first-hand information.

Last year, Putin said he had invited Erdogan to attend the opening ceremony of a mosque in Crimea which is scheduled for April 2020, adding that the Turkish president approached the invitation positively.

Erdogan’s visit to Ukraine took place amid mounting friction between Turkey and Russia in Syria’s Idlib region where an exchange of fire took place on Sunday and Monday.

The rare direct confrontation between Turkish and Russia-backed Syrian forces in Idlib was initiated on Sunday by a Syrian shelling in the town of Saraqeb which killed eight Turkish soldiers.

In retaliation, Turkey attacked the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Monday, reportedly killing 35 regime soldiers.

“The developments in Idlib have become intolerable. We have been very patient. Right now, nearly a million people are escaping toward our borders as a result of

the regime’s barrel bombs and unfortunately due to Russia’s negligence,” Erdogan Erdogan said during a joint press conference with his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky.

As is the case in Libya, another conflict zone between Ankara and Moscow, Erdogan and Zelensky signed several cooperation agreements, including a military assistance funding package for the Ukrainian army worth some $33 million.

In November last year, Erdogan had signed a similar controversial deal with Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA).

Ankara is at odds with Moscow in Libya where it provides the GNA with military support against the Russian-backed Libyan National Army (LNA).

Andrii Sybiha, Ukraine’s ambassador to Turkey, told the Ukrainian media on Monday that Turkey’s financial support, particularly to buy arms, came in response to Ukrainian needs.

Ukraine’s military has been at war with the Russian-backed separatists in the Donbass area in the east of the country since Moscow annexed Crimea in 2014. Moscow’s annexation has not been internationally recognized.

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