ISTANBUL – Turkey and Ukraine on Friday signed military cooperation agreements in Istanbul, deepening a defense partnership seen as an effort to counteract Russia’s dominance in the Black Sea region.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan oversaw the signing of a “goodwill” agreement on the defense industry and a “military framework agreement”, officials said, although officials said details of the agreements were not immediately known.
“Turkey sees Ukraine as key establishment country [of] stability, security, peace and prosperity in the region, ”Erdogan said after the signing ceremony between the two Black Sea nations which have strengthened their military relations in recent years.
Zelenskiy said the agreements opened up “new opportunities”.
“Cooperation in the defense industry is important for the development of our strategic partnership and I am happy that we are strengthening it today,” he said, speaking through an interpreter. .
Last year, Ukraine struck a deal to purchase Turkish-made drones. The two countries are also said to be engaged in discussions to develop an aircraft engine.
The signing of the agreements comes as the conflict in the Caucasus over Nagorno-Karabakh is straining Turkey’s relations with Russia. Turkey has supported Azerbaijan in the dispute, while Russia has a military base in Armenia and a security pact forcing Moscow to intervene if its ally is attacked.
In a delicate balance, Russia also sought to maintain warm ties with Azerbaijan and avoid disrupting relations with Turkey.
Although Ankara and Moscow have developed strong economic ties and reconcile mutual interests in Syria and Libya, the two enjoy often difficult relations and remain geopolitical rivals.
Erdogan reiterated on Friday Turkey’s refusal to recognize Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine.
“Turkey has not recognized the illegal annexation of Crimea and it never will,” Erdogan said.
Zelenskiy, meanwhile, presented Erdogan with a state medal for his support for Ukraine’s “territorial integrity”.
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