May 23, 2024

ISTANBUL (AP) — Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was in Istanbul on Friday for talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan whose NATO-member country has sought to balance its close relations with both Kyiv and Moscow and repeatedly offered to act as a peace-broker between them.

During the talks in Istanbul, Erdogan was expected to press for negotiations to end Russia’s war in Ukraine, now in its third year, a Turkish government official said.

Talks would also focus on a possible new measure that would guarantee navigational safety of commercial vessels in the Black Sea, the official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with Turkish government protocol.

The visit comes as Zelenskyy continues to press other nations for more munitions and weaponry to halt the advance of Russian troops trying to make deeper gains into the Ukraine-held western part of the Donetsk region and also penetrating into the Kharkiv region north of it.

Shortly after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 and the outbreak of the war, Turkey hosted a meeting between the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers as well as unsuccessful talks between the two countries’ negotiating teams aimed at ending the hostilities.

Later in 2022, Turkey, along with the United Nations, also brokered a deal between Russia and Ukraine that allowed the shipment of millions of tons of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea. Russia however, pulled out of the deal last year, citing obstacles to its export of food and fertilizers.

In Istanbul, Zelenskky was also to visit shipyards where Turkish companies are building two corvettes for the Ukrainian navy, according to his office.

Zelenskyy last visited Turkey last July, when he returned back to Ukraine together with a group of Ukrainian commanders who were in Turkey following a prison exchange deal, and were to remain on Turkish territory until the end of the war. There was no explanation from Ankara or Kyiv about why they were allowed to return to Ukraine.

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Fraser reported from Ankara, Turkey.

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