Only Russian, Ukrainian presidents can decide when war will end: President Erdogan

Only the Russian and Ukrainian presidents can determine when the war in Ukraine will come to an end, said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In an interview with the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), an American public broadcaster, President Erdogan emphasized that he could not provide a timeline for the war’s conclusion.

“It’s impossible for me to give you a calendar about when this war will end or how long it will go,” he said. “Only the leaders of both parties will be able to tell you.”

He was referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Asked about his discussions with Putin regarding the war’s progress, President Erdogan noted that the conflict is expected to continue for “a long time.”

“And for the war to end as soon as possible, we would like to be very hopeful. And Mr. Putin is actually on the side of ending this war as soon as possible,” he said.

The president also said that Russia is as trustworthy as the West.

“I have no reason not to trust them. To the extent the West is reliable, Russia is equally reliable. For the last 50 years, we have been waiting at the doorstep of the EU. And at this moment in time, I trust Russia just as much as I trust the West,” he said.

When asked about recent remarks he made on parting ways with the European Union if necessary, the president said that Türkiye attaches great importance to decisions made by the EU and will welcome any positive step forward.

“Türkiye has been lingering at the doorstep of the EU for the last five decades. And we were always self-sufficient. We never relied on contributions or support we received from the EU, so it’s not even necessary for us,” he added.

EU accession talks, Sweden’s NATO issue

President Erdogan also reiterated that Sweden’s NATO bid and Türkiye’s current position within the EU accession negotiations are two separate issues.

“We have repeatedly stated that we were ready to support Sweden to join NATO. But Sweden is supposed to rise up to the occasion and keep their promises because on the streets of Stockholm, we still see terrorists wandering around freely,” he said.

The Turkish leader was referring to supporters of the PKK and FETO terror groups in the country. He has repeatedly urged Stockholm to take measures against these supporters who, he said, were roaming freely.

Finland and Sweden applied for NATO membership shortly after Russia launched its war on Ukraine in February 2022.

Although Türkiye approved Finland’s NATO membership, it is waiting for Sweden to fulfill its commitments not to provide shelter to terrorists or supporters of terrorists and not to facilitate their actions.

The president said that Sweden’s bid to join NATO is being assessed by the Turkish Grand National Assembly (parliament) and it is the place where, he said, the accession would be eventually ratified.

“This is part of the agenda of the Turkish Grand National Assembly. The Assembly will see the situation within the framework of its own calendar. This proposal will come to a vote by the lawmakers,” he said.

However, he reiterated that Sweden should keep its promises.

“Terrorist organizations should immediately stop their demonstrations on the streets of Stockholm and they should stop their activities. Because seeing this actually happen is going to be very important for the Turkish people. Sweden seemingly carried out legislative amendments, but it’s not enough,” the president added.

Sale of F-16 jets and Sweden’s NATO bid

President Erdogan also said he believed the US sale of F-16 fighter jets to Türkiye and Sweden’s NATO bid should not be related.

“I believe these two topics shouldn’t be related, because while, primarily, President (Joe) Biden said that this issue was tied to the Congress, we would always say, OK, we have the Turkish Parliament,” he said.

“If the parliament doesn’t make a positive decision about this bid, then there’s nothing to do,” he added.

Joining EU for sanctioning Russia

The president was also asked why he did not join the EU members for sanctioning Russia over its war in Ukraine.

“Are we supposed to do what the EU members are doing?” he said.

Saying that Türkiye has a different position in the world and the EU member states have their positions, the president described Russia as one of the closest neighbors of Türkiye and said that both nations have a common history.

“And similarly, this is how the current process is continuing. We have launched the (Ukraine) grain corridor. Altogether, 33 million tons of grain are exported to the rest of the world using the Black Sea. And we didn’t do this just because the EU asked us to do so. It was a humanitarian obligation that we assumed,” he said.

He recalled that his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin told him that he would send one more million tons of grain soon, and he was following the developments.

Putin ‘on side of ending war’ in Ukraine

President Erdogan brushed aside criticisms that Putin is not to be trusted over his role in the grain deal and the war in Ukraine.

“I don’t agree. Half of my natural gas supplies are coming from Russia, which means we have solidarity. We are taking mutual steps forward and we were cooperating in the field of defense industry as well. We can do these things with Russia,” said the president.

Asked if he sees more of a benefit to Türkiye’s relationship with Russia or with the US, President Erdogan stressed that that question cannot be asked to a political leader.

“Because the way I engage politics, to the extent possible, is all about establishing contacts with the nations around the world based on a win-win scenario. Just as I have good relations with the US, similarly, I will have good relations with Russia. And we will continue to have a relationship with the EU member states based on the same approach as well, win-win,” he said.

The president also said that the American people are following Türkiye, telling PBS: “So long as you produce healthy news and coverage, I think the American people will have access to this healthy information flowing to them.”

US Senator Bob Menendez

The president also commented on US Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, who is known for his opposition to the US sale of F-16s to Türkiye and his accusations against Ankara for allegedly threatening Greece’s security.

“Bob Menendez is not very familiar with Türkiye. And Menendez doesn’t seem to be familiar with Tayyip Erdogan either,” said the president.

“We are friends with (Greece) for many decades. It seems like Menendez has taken a hostile approach to Türkiye and he’s trying to pull us towards certain discussions of his choosing. But we are not going to be part of this. Our friendship with Greece is not what they make it out to be,” he added.