Tatiana Ivzhenko

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, August 22, 2016, p. 1

Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed in a telephone conversation with Petr Poroshenko that despite warming up of relations with Russia he would not recognize changing of the borders of Ukraine.


Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed in a telephone conversation with Petr Poroshenko that despite warming up of relations with Russia he would not recognize changing of the borders of Ukraine. Kiev considers the words of Erdogan a powerful support on the eve of an informal meeting of foreign ministers of the OSCE member states planned for the beginning of September, as well as informal EU summit in the middle of September. There may rise an issue of a new format of negotiations on status of Crimea.

The conversation with Erdogan was preceded by the conversation of Poroshenko with Joseph Biden and President of Slovakia Andrej Kiska (Slovakia is the chain in the EU and an informal summit of the EU will take place in Bratislava).

Press service of the Ukrainian President reported about the essence of the conversations briefly: situation on the border with Crimea and in Donets Basin, matters of prolongation of Western sanctions against Russia and prospects for promotion of European integration of Ukraine. According to the press service, in conversations with both interlocutors Poroshenko touched on the topic of Crimea and a need “to put Russia at the table of negotiations in the Normandy format to discuss the situation in Donets Basin.”

At a big press conference in Kiev at the beginning of the year, Poroshenko announced creation of a new format of negotiations on the matters of “return of Crimea” by the end of 2016. This topic is not debated on the international level now. The Normandy format (Ukraine, Germany, France, and Russia) develops a strategy for regulation in Donets Basin that should ideally be transformed into a plan of tactical actions approved at negotiations in Moscow (Ukraine, OSCE, Russia + DNR and LNR).

In January, Poroshenko announced a need to create another format, Geneva plus, to include not only Ukraine and Russia, but also the EU and the US, the countries that signed the Budapest memorandum. The President of Ukraine announced plans for this year, “Struggle for return of Crimea also remains an important priority on the agenda. We will propose creation of an international mechanism for de-occupation of the peninsula.”

Ukrainian experts took the idea skeptically because without Russia it was impossible to solve the problem of Crimea. Press secretary of the President of Russia Dmitry Peskov immediately hinted that Russia would not participate in the new format, “The problem of Crimea as such does not exist and, correspondingly, it is impossible to discuss the problem of Crimea as such.”

According to political analysts, Washington is also occupied with presidential elections until the end of the year and does not wish to get distracted by new projects with unpredictable results. Germany and France do not wish new formats that could question authority and efficiency of work of the “Normandy four.” European intermediaries in the regulation Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande bear in mind how this will influence the election campaigns that start in these countries.

In Europe only President of Poland Andrzej Duda announced a need to broaden the format of negotiations about the Ukrainian matter right after victory last year. And he proposed inclusion of representatives of Poland into the new negotiation group. A year ago, this proposal was criticized because it created a risk of breaking of the Normandy format and, of course, did not guarantee agreement of Russia for participation in any other format. After the recent statement of Putin that meeting of leaders of the Normandy four had no sense against the background of the events on the border with Crimea in August the situation might change.

Member of the Ukrainian political subgroup at negotiations in Minsk Olga Aivazovskaya said in an interview to RBC Ukraine that after the summer still Western leaders would have to recall about the Ukrainian problem again. The situation remains tense and dangerous and besides the war in Donets Basin there may also appear a hot spot on the border with Crimea. Aivazovskaya said, “Normandy four in the format of leaders of the states met last time in 2015. Of course, consultations are conducted in the telephone mode or on the level of ministers and diplomatic advisors.” She remarked that meeting of the leaders of the group of four planned for summer of this year, as well as evidently the meeting in September was ruined. That is why not only Ukraine but also the West will have to think about new negotiations to avoid aggravation of the situation. Aivazovskaya said, “Of course, for Ukraine it would be more beneficial to have some other sites, for example, to revive the Geneva format or to create something similar where other states would operate more actively.”

Some experts in Kiev say that Turkey could also become a participant of new negotiations besides Poland. According to them, it was not incidental that Poroshenko phoned Erdogan now. Press service of the Ukrainian President reported that in the conversation the Turkish leader assured Kiev of “unchanging position of Turkey regarding support of independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine in its internationally recognized borders” and also “announced that Turkey will not recognize occupation of Turkey and will keep supporting Crimean Tatars.”

This statement attracted attention because Erdogan had just restored friendly relations with Putin. It was expected that in communication with Poroshenko he would try to diplomatically bypass the matter of Crimea. But the Turkish leader occupied a clear position that coincided with the Ukrainian and Western line. In any case, back in May such position did not surprise anyone. Just three months ago, the President of Turkey according to American mass media called on NATO for more active operations in the region to prevent transformation of the Black Sea into a “Russian lake.”

Interestingly, now when Erdogan according to the press service of the Administration of the Ukrainian President Erdogan actually recognized the Ukrainian status of Crimea, Prime Minister of Turkey Yildirim Binali admitted a possibility of use of air base Incirlik by Russia. The nuance is in the fact that the matter is about NATO base at which there are about 50 units of tactical nuclear weapons according to open sources.

Head of the Center of Middle Eastern Studies Igor Semivolos said, “Erdogan is known by emotional decisions, unpredictable actions and loud statements. Well, he is such a person.” According to the expert, the hint of Turkish authorities addressed to NATO about possible admission of Russian servicemen to Incirlik may pursue political goals. Semivolos remarked, “TO say and to do are different things. With regard to use of the air base of NATO, decisions are made in accordance with agreements in which rights of the parties and limitations should be indicated clearly.”

Ukrainian analysts admit that goal of the Turkish leader is recognition of Turkey as the main player in the Black Sea region.

According to Ukrainian experts, the Crimean problem may become an instrument for achievement of the goal of Turkey. The team of Poroshenko evidently tries to obtain support of the US and the strongest regional player in the form of Turkey to draw a common denominator in the form of status of Crimea. But experts in Kiev are convinced that the West will not agree to start considering this issue soon. Agenda for the near future will remain the same, namely Donets Basin.