Turkey, President Erdoğan

Erdoğan announces agreement to exchange prisoners from Ukraine & Russia

Interviewed in the US, Erdoğan defended the territorial integrity of Ukraine and said that Putin wants to end the war “as soon as possible”.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan, visiting New York, has announced an agreement to exchange 200 prisoners from Ukraine and Russia, while saying his impression is that Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to end the war as soon as possible.

“In Uzbekistan (during the SCO meeting in Samarkand), I met with President Putin and had a long talk with him. I realized that he is trying to end this war as soon as possible, because the way things are going right now is quite problematic,” Erdoğan explained in remarks made for the American public television program PBS NewsHour.

“On this point, for example, an agreement has been reached for the exchange of 200 prisoners. This is a positive development, because with these prisoners, an important step forward will be taken,” said the Turkish president, who further added that, if a peace agreement is reached between Kyiv and Moscow, Ukraine’s territorial integrity must be respected “without doubt”.

“This is what is expected, and what is desired. There are steps taken by Putin on this matter, and also by us,” Erdoğan declared, also insisting on the return of Crimea. Although during the interview he was asked several times whether Putin should be condemned for the invasion of Ukraine or for massacres like Bucha, the Turkish president stressed that his country must maintain a neutral position to exercise its mediating role in the conflict, and that these are issues that should be addressed by international organizations such as the United Nations.

“Turkey is part of the world: neither East nor West”

Asked about the possibility of Turkey joining the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization), and about whether he wants Turkey to be part of the East or part of the West, Erdoğan replied: “I have to say this very clearly… We are part of the world, neither from the East nor from the West”, and also recalled that geographically a large part of the country belongs to Asia, so it is logical to strengthen its ties with countries in the region.

Although much of the interview was about the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, the presenter also asked Erdoğan about relations between Turkey and the United States, to which the Turkish president replied that defence cooperation between the two countries, both allies and key NATO members, is not at the desired level. “We have for example the problem of the F-16. We have bought F-16s from the US, but certain political decisions have been made that have led to sanctions against Turkey. This is not appropriate for two friendly countries,” he replied.