Erdoğan calls for end to Ukraine tension, offers Ankara's support for Ukraine's NATO aspirations

(Releads with post-meeting remarks from Erdoğan, Zelenskiy)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Saturday urged an end to the developments in eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region, following a meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart in Istanbul, adding that Ankara was ready to provide any necessary support.

The meeting between the two leaders in Istanbul took place against a backdrop of tensions between Kyiv and Moscow over a simmering conflict in the eastern Donbass region.

“Our main goal is that the Black Sea continues to be a sea of peace, tranquility and cooperation,” T24 news site cited Erdoğan as saying, while stressing that he hoped for a peaceful resolution to the conflict, based on diplomatic customs, in line with international laws and Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said that Kyiv and Ankara agreed on the threats in the region and as well as responses to those threats.

The Turkish president also addressed cooperation with Ukraine in the defence industry, saying that it was not a move against any third countries.

Ukraine has purchased several Turkish drones and control stations for the drones last year, while signing contracts for several more and an agreement for the manufacture of Turkish drones.

The recent military buildup of Russian forces near the border between Ukraine and Russia have fueled concerns that Moscow is preparing to send forces into Ukraine, Reuters said on Saturday.

However, the Kremlin denies its troops are a threat.

According to a joint statement published following the meeting between Zelensky and Erdoğan, Turkey also expressed support for Ukraine's joining NATO. The declaration, announced by Ukrainian President's Office on its website, said, "The Republic of Turkey supports Ukraine's perspective for membership to the North Atlantic Alliance and welcomes Ukraine's recognition as an Enhanced Opportunities Partner."

"The Republic of Turkey will continue to assist Ukraine in meeting the criteria for membership to the Alliance, as well as the interoperability of the Armed Forces of Ukraine with NATO, including through appropriate joint military exercises," it said according to the same declaration.

Meanwhile, Turkey on Friday said Washington would send two warships to the Black Sea next week according to a notice sent to Turkish authorities.

The notice was sent 15 days in advance, the sources said, as per the Montreux Convention regarding the Dardanelles and Bosporus straits.

The Montreux, and thus the passage of military vessels from Turkish straits, has shaped the public agenda since Saturday, when 103 retired admirals issued a declaration denouncing the Turkish government for opening the convention up for discussion.

Upon Parliamentary Speaker Mustafa Şentop bringing up the matter in an interview, the retired members of the navy said Montreux was Turkey's “single biggest diplomatic victory”, and that it ensured peace in the Black Sea.

The 1936 convention limits the time vessels belonging to non-Black Sea states can remain in the northern waters to 21 days, as well as the type and number of vessels that can pass through at times of both peace and war.

A Pentagon official told CNN on Thursday that the United States was considering a new deployment of warships, which would signal to Moscow that Washington was watching the increased Russian military presence on Ukraine’s southern border on the Black Sea.