In the first part of an interview with KYIV NOT KIEV, His Excellency Ambassador of Turkey to Ukraine, Mr. Yağmur Ahmet Güldere told that:
- Turkey supports the purpose of the Crimean Platform but is still on the fence about joining;
- Turkey and Ukraine continue their collaboration to create strike drones;
- Turkey continues to help to build housing for Ukrainian IDPs, including Crimean Tatars;
- Turkey supports Ukraine’s NATO aspirations;
- 3 million Turks have ancestors of Crimean Tatar origin, including Mr. Ambassador himself.
On Ukraine’s image in Turkey
A recent study of the Ukrainian Institute on Ukraine’s image abroad showed surprising results. Turkish people’s idea of Ukraine is very uncertain and blurred. So, how come Ukraine manages to remain in the blind spot for Turkish citizens, being on the other side of the Black Sea?
Mr. Güldere disagrees with such an idea.
“ Terming Ukraine as a blind spot would be over-exaggerating it. But is it at the level [in Turkey’s agenda] where it should be? Definitely not. This is something which we all should be working on,” he said.
The Ambassador stated that the current situation is adequate, taking into account the duration of Ukrainian independence. Nowadays, tourism plays an important role in making the gap in people-to-people contacts smaller than it ever used to be. Mr. Güldere also mentioned the academic side of the problem. According to him, Turkey didn’t have a single Ukrainian language department in the universities. Only in 2017, Istanbul University was the first to open a speciality “Ukrainian Language and Literature.” Now, other universities are considering the possibilities of doing the same.
On joint production of defense equipment.
Mr. Ambassador stated that Ukraine and Turkey both had developed strong defense industry infrastructures. It could be mutually beneficial for Kyiv and Ankara due to the competitive quality of defense industries, which complement one another through the countries’ cooperation.
“We are looking at the possibilities of jointly producing some equipment and jointly designing some equipment,” said Mr Güldere.
In addition, Ukraine and Turkey are probing the possibilities of exporting produced equipment to third countries.
How are things going in terms of defense industry cooperation?
Back in October 2020, Ukrainian Minister of Defence Andrii Taran and Head of the State Agency for Defense Industry of the Republic of Turkey Ismail Demir signed the Memorandum, reflecting Turkey and Ukraine’s aspirations to promote their defense industries’ programs and strengthen defense capabilities. This document provides a framework for sides to start and implement joint projects to construct warships, UAVs, and all types of turbine engines.
Turkey also expressed its desire to produce Bayraktar strike drones in Ukraine. All that Turkey needs is a site where it could build a plant to make these types of equipment.
Also, Ukraine and Turkey are working on creating “Akinci” – a high-altitude strike drone that can perform tactical and strategic tasks, breakthrough air defense systems, carry out bombing etc. Only a few countries develop such drones as of today. And thanks to Ukrainian specialists, Turkish ones can operate. The most crucial parts – engines – are being created in Zaporizhya, Ukraine, at the Ivchenko design bureau “Progress” and the plant “Motor Sich”. This March, Akinci successfully passed another round of testing.
On Turkey’s participation in the Crimean Platform
In Mr. Ambassador’s opinion, the Crimean Platform is a rather recent initiative, of a form that is yet to be decided. However, even though Turkey lacks information about the one, its purpose to condemn the annexation of Crimea is fully supported by Ankara.
“We will continue the policy of non-recognition, and we will be following the developments regarding the Crimean Platform,” stated the Ambassador.
During the most recent official visit of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to Ankara, President of the Turkish Republic Recep Tayyip Erdogan underlined the firm decision not to recognize Crimea annexation. As stated in the Joint Declaration of the High-level Strategic Council, Presidents decided to support the Crimean Platform as a new format to address the illegal annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation.
The Crimean Platform is a negotiating forum for the de-occupation of Crimea and protecting the Crimeans` rights. Nowadays, the EU takes the approach of non-recognition of Crimea occupation. That’s why Ukrainian authorities are convinced that the European Union is interested in holding such a Platform. However, it is essential to determine its format. To that end, the first Summit of the Crimean Platform is scheduled for August 23, 2021. EU High Representative Josep Borrell and President of the European Council Charles Michel have announced that they will come to support the initiative. Chargé d’Affaires of the United States in Ukraine Christina Quinn said that the U.S. will be represented at a high level at the Summit. Such countries as Poland, Slovakia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia also confirmed their representatives’ participation at the Crimean Platform.
On the issue of Crimean Tatars
Speaking about Crimea, it is impossible to avoid the issue of Crimean Tatars and their disadvantaged situation due to the peninsula’s occupation. The problems of Crimean Tatars are significant for Turkey because more than 3 million Turks find their ancestors of Crimean Tatar origin, including Mr. Ambassador himself.
“A friend in need is a friend indeed,” underlined Mr Güldere.
Turkey pledged to participate in housing construction in Ukraine for internally displaced persons.
During the official visit of the Ukrainian delegation to Turkey this April, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Oleksii Reznikov and Turkish Minister of Environment and Urbanization Murat Kurum have signed an agreement under which Turkey will build hundreds of houses in Ukraine. The intergovernmental agreement makes it possible to build about 500 apartments for representatives of the Crimean Tatars and other internally displaced persons. After the documents were signed, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that the project also included constructing a mosque for Crimean Tatars.
That is not the only project Turkish investors carry out in Ukraine. The Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency, TIKA, has implemented projects worth 40 million dollars over the 25 years of work in Ukraine.
The TIKA invested almost 12 million hryvnias in a Lviv geriatric boarding house (for elderly people and those who have disabilities). It is planned to reconstruct the two-story building, replace windows, doors, utilities, interior, and exterior finishing works, purchase beds, equipment, etc.
On Ukraine’s NATO aspirations and cooperation in the Black Sea
Recently, the Ukrainian media space was filled with speculations about Ukraine’s possibilities of joining NATO in the nearest future and the need to get a Membership Action Plan. However, is Ukraine, as a NATO member, a best-case scenario for Turkey? Will it affect the cooperation of two countries in the Black Sea?
Mr Ambassador put it simply, “We support Ukraine’s effort and intention to integrate itself with transatlantic organizations” .
Earlier, Turkey has congratulated Ukraine on getting the Enhanced Opportunities Partner status.
We want to add that, among other things, this April, for the first time, Ukraine participated in the ministerial negotiations between the triangle of Romania, Poland, and Turkey – NATO’s Eastern flank. For the first time, they invited Foreign Ministers from Ukraine and Georgia to take part in their meeting.
Speaking about the importance of cooperation in the Black Sea region, Mr. Güldere highlighted that since the Soviet Union collapsed, Turkey negotiates with Ukraine in the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation. It aims to create a platform for Black Sea countries for discussing economic possibilities and prospects of developments.
This organization was created back in 1992 when leaders of eleven countries signed the Summit Declaration and the “Bosphorus Statement” in Istanbul. They highlighted the states` shared vision of the stable, peaceful, and prosperous Black Sea region. Ukraine assumed the Chairmanship-in-Office of the BSEC in 2013 and in 2017.
Victoria Dubiv is a Project Manager at TRUMAN Agency, Editor of KYIV NOT KIEVPolina Boichuk is an Associate at TRUMAN Agency, co-host at KYIV NOT KIEV
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