Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited Istanbul over the weekend to mark the 10th anniversary of his country’s strategic partnership with Turkey and shore up support from his Black Sea neighbour as tensions escalate with Russia over Ukraine’s simmering war in Donbas.
“Turkey’s support for the restoration of our sovereignty and territorial integrity is extremely important,” Zelenskyy stated in a joint news conference with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Following a meeting with the Turkish leader, Zelenskyy tweeted, “We share common values with #Turkey, including human life and support.”
While Turkey spars with the United States and other Western European leaders over the purchase of the Russian-made S-400 missile system and the conflict in Syria, the aspiring NATO country of Ukraine has developed strong ties with Ankara.
Saturday’s visit marks the Ukrainian leader’s second trip to Turkey in less than six months.
In 2017, the countries created a passport-free travel zone and they are currently working on the implementation of a free-trade agreement, which leaders say will more than double the level of bilateral trade between them.
“The drifting away from the West discourse is very popular in European and US capitals. The West doesn’t want to see that there are really problematic areas in Turkish-Russian relations,” Bilgehan Ozturk, an analyst with the SETA Foundation, an Ankara-based think-tank seen as close to the Erdogan government, told Al Jazeera.
Ozturk said Russia’s annexation of Crimea was a game-changer for Ankara’s relations with Moscow and how it viewed the balance of power in the Black Sea.