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Analyst examines Turkey's role in Ukraine talks

As Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hosts his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan and U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres in the western city of Lviv, there's speculation that Turkey could eventually fulfill the role of a go-between between the two warring nations.

Sinan Ulgen, director of Istanbul-based think tank 'EDAM', said, Thursday, that the Turkish president operated a "balanced approach to both Ukraine and Russia" and was "pro-Ukraine without being anti-Russia".

"The Turkish president will get to meet with Ukrainian President Zelenskyy and this is yet another demonstration that Turkey is intent on carrying a balanced approach to both Ukraine and Russia. It demonstrates to the international community that Turkey can have this engagement at the very highest political level, both with Putin and with Zelenskyy at the same time."

Ulgen explained that Turkey did not have the "luxury to alienate Russia" due to the Syrian refugee crisis.

"Turkey has a dependence on Russia in the area of national security because of Syria, where Turkey needs Russia's diplomatic partnership in order to avert a scenario or yet another humanitarian disaster which could potentially lead to a new refugee flow," he said.

As a potential power broker, Erdogan will use his first visit to Ukraine since the war started nearly six months ago to seek ways to expand the export of grain from Europe's breadbasket to the world's needy.

Ulgen said: "The continuation of the grain deal is important. That is going to be discussed possibly there will also be a discussion about a possible Turkish joint venture of the Bayraktar Company in Ukraine. But overall, in terms of the war situation, I don't think that we should have any real expectations."

He said at this stage there was no reason to think Kyiv and Moscow would be interested in a diplomatic opening.

"But if and when we reach that stage, Turkey will be one of the countries that could re-espouse this type of role because somebody needs to do it. And the fact that Turkey, as a NATO country, but still has links to the political leadership in Russia, has the confidence of both Ukraine and Russia can play this role going forward. It's just that at this point, there's probably not much demand for this role."

Last month, Turkey and the U.N. helped broker an agreement clearing the way for Ukraine to export 22 million tons of corn and other grain stuck in its Black Sea ports since Russia invaded on Feb. 24.

The war and the blocked exports have significantly exacerbated the global food crisis because Ukraine and Russia are major food suppliers.


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