Turkey, balancing ties with Russia, says drones to Ukraine are sales, not aid – Sabah

A Turkish flag flies next to the NATO logo at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, November 26, 2019. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

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ANKARA, March 3 (Reuters) – Turkey‘s drone deliveries to Ukraine are not military aid but rather private sales, a Turkish deputy foreign minister said on Thursday, underscoring Ankara’s efforts to to avoid offending Moscow amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

NATO member Turkey, which shares a maritime border with Russia and Ukraine and enjoys good relations with both, called the invasion unacceptable but avoided harsher rhetoric from other members of the alliance and opposes their use of sanctions.

Turkey cooperates closely with Russia in the fields of energy, trade and defence. It also sold Bayraktar TB-2 drones to Kiev and signed a deal to co-produce more during a visit there last month by President Tayyip Erdogan, angering Moscow. Read more

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On Wednesday, Ukraine’s defense minister said he received a new shipment of armed drones, which in recent years have proven effective against Russian forces and their allies in the conflicts in Syria and Libya. Read more

In an interview with the pro-government newspaper Sabah, Deputy Foreign Minister Yavuz Selim Kiran said Kiev bought the drones from Baykar, a private Turkish defense company, stressing that this did not represent an agreement between the nations. .

“Ukraine wanted to buy this product from our company, and they made a solid deal between them,” Kiran said, according to Sabah.

“This is not aid from Turkey. These are products that Ukraine bought from a Turkish company. Of course, we are proud of these products,” he added.

The comments come as Western nations step up sanctions on Russia and military aid to Ukraine as it battles to repel a series of Russian attacks. Read more

Since Russia launched its invasion a week ago, the Ukrainian embassy in Ankara has released several videos of what it says are Turkish-made drones hitting Russian targets. Sabah called the manipulation intended to cause friction between Turkey and Russia.

Russia previously raised concerns with Turkey over Ukraine’s use of drones in the east of the country, but Ankara says it is not responsible for what the buyers are doing. Cheaper than their American and Chinese rivals, Turkish drones have attracted buyers from Europe, Africa and Asia. Read more

Turkey – also heavily dependent on Russian tourists – this week closed its strait linking the Mediterranean and Black Seas to all military traffic under a 1936 pact, allowing it to limit the passage of some Russian warships.

Underlining its difficult balance, Turkey abstained in a vote to suspend Moscow’s membership of the Council of Europe. Yet on Monday at the United Nations General Assembly, he criticized Russia’s invasion and called on countries to stand up for the Ukrainian people.

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Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Jonathan Spicer

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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