Ukraine’s Zelenskyy visits Turkey, where Erdogan is expected to press for negotiations to end war

ISTANBUL (AP) — Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky was in Istanbul on Friday for talks with the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoganwhose NATO member state has sought to balance its close ties with both Kiev and Moscow and has repeatedly offered to act as a peace mediator between them.

During the talks in Istanbul, Erdogan was expected to push for negotiations to end Russia’s war in Ukraine, now in its third year, a Turkish government official said.

The talks would also focus on a possible new measure that would guarantee shipping safety commercial ships in the Black Sea, the official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in accordance with Turkish government protocol.

The visit comes as Zelenskyy continues to press other countries for more ammunition and weapons to stop the advance of Russian forces trying to make deeper territorial gains in the Ukrainian-occupied western part of the Donetsk region and also penetrate into the Kharkov region north of there.

An envoy from China, which has frustrated Ukraine and its Western allies by boosting trade with Russia and portraying the conflict and its causes largely from Moscow’s point of view, was in Kiev on Thursday during a European visits for talks on resolving what they call the Ukraine crisis. Li Hui, the Special Representative for Eurasian Affairs, met with officials from Russia, the EU, Switzerland and Poland before his visit to Ukraine and would then travel to Germany and France.

Shortly after Russia’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Turkey hosted a meeting between the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers, as well as failed talks between negotiators from the two countries with the aim of ending hostilities.

Later in 2022, Turkey, together with the United Nations, also brokered a deal between Russia and Ukraine that allowed the shipment of millions of tons of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea. However, Russia withdrew from the deal last year, citing obstacles to food and fertilizer exports.

In Istanbul, Zelenskky would also visit shipyards where Turkish companies are building two corvettes for the Ukrainian navy, according to his office.

Zelenskyy last visited Turkey in July last year, when he returned to Ukraine with a group of Ukrainian commanders who were in Turkey following a prison swap deal and were to remain on Turkish soil until the end of the war. There was no explanation from Ankara or Kiev as to why they were allowed to return to Ukraine.

During Li’s visit to Kiev, Ukrainian officials described the horrors of the war.

“It is very important that you hear firsthand about the situation on the front lines, what is happening and where we are,” Andriy Yermak, the head of the presidential office, said, according to a Ukrainian statement.

It was not clear how Li responded to the presentation. China released a terse statement on Friday, saying only that Li arrived in Kiev by train at noon, had frank and friendly conversations and left by train the same evening.

The war has created a sharp divide between China and the West. The Chinese government avoids using the words “war” or “invasion” to describe the Russian attack, citing NATO expansion as the root cause of the conflict.

Ukraine’s statement said the two sides discussed the possibility of Chinese assistance in prisoner exchanges, the return of Ukrainian children to Russia and the return of the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, which Russia took control of during the 2022 fighting.

Ukrainian Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko on Friday urged Russia to immediately comply with an International Atomic Energy Agency resolution calling for the complete withdrawal of its troops from the Zaporizhia power station and the return of the station to Ukraine check.

“Every day that Russians stay in the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant increases the number of existing problems and increases the threat of a nuclear incident,” Halushchenko said on national television.


Fraser reported from Ankara, Turkey. Associated Press writers Ken Moritsugu in Beijing and Illia Novikov in Kiev contributed to this report.

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