UPDATES WITH JOINT DECLARATION ISSUED FOLLOWING NEWS CONFERENCE
By Ali Murat Alhas and Semra Orkan
ANKARA (AA) - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday hailed relations with Ukraine and said both countries enhanced their ties in many fields including the defense industry, health and tourism through a win-win approach.
At a news conference in the capital Ankara following a meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky, Erdogan said Turkey viewed Ukraine as a key figure required to establish peace, stability, and security in the region.
The Turkish president said both sides were committed to make free-trade agreements and boost bilateral trade volume to $10 billion through investments and growing socio-economic relations.
Stressing that more than 500,000 Ukrainian tourists visited Turkey this summer despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Erdogan said this data reflected Ukrainians’ trust in Turkish authorities’ “safe-tourism” campaign.
The president also commented on the political front, saying Ankara has always supported Ukraine’s territorial and political integrity, adding Turkey never recognized the illegal annexation of Crimea.
For his part, Zelensky said his country was ready to further enhance the strategic partnership with Turkey, adding that Friday's discussions were productive.
Stressing the importance of Turkish support for Ukraine's territorial integrity, he vowed to maintain efforts to release Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar political prisoners held by Russia.
He said Ukraine and Turkey would work closely in the UN's 75th General Assembly to ensure the protection of human rights in illegally annexed Crimea, noting that the dispute in the Donbass region in eastern Ukraine could only be resolved through political and diplomatic means.
Zelensky further noted that some Turkish construction companies were active in Ukraine, adding that he wanted to see more companies from Turkey.
A joint declaration was issued following the press conference in which both sides reaffirmed their desire to strengthen their strategic partnership and commitment to earlier agreements reached on Feb. 3, 2020, during the Turkey-Ukraine High-Level Strategic Council meeting held in Kiev.
Turkey said in the statement that it welcomed cooperation on the initiative of the Crimea Platform launched by Ukraine and reaffirmed its unconditional support for the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity recognized by the international community.
Furthermore, the joint release called for an end to the occupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol, and to maintain efforts towards re-establishing Ukrainian control over some regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.
In addition, Ukraine hailed Turkey's call for Ukrainian observatory membership to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and developing better relations with the Turkic Council. It concluded that both countries would deepen their cultural and humanitarian cooperation.