Türkiye keen to push for Russia-Ukraine peace talks

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, speaks to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during their talks on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, Sept 16, 2022. (ALEXANDR DEMYANCHUK, SPUTNIK, KREMLIN POOL PHOTO VIA AP)

ANKARA — Türkiye has intensified its efforts to broker a permanent ceasefire and eventually a settlement between Russia and Ukraine, following successful grain and prisoner swap deals, but Ankara's balancing act has its limitations, experts said.

On Thursday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan held phone conversations with his Russian and Ukrainian counterparts.

Türkiye's leadership has been keen to capitalize on its previous diplomatic success with the grain deal concluded in June last year

He told Volodymyr Zelensky that Ankara was ready to take on mediation and moderation duties to secure a "lasting peace between Russia and Ukraine," according to a readout from Erdogan's office.

READ MORE: Türkiye seeks peace talks between Ukraine, Russia

The Turkish leader told Vladimir Putin that peace efforts in the ongoing conflict should be supported by a unilateral ceasefire and a "vision for a fair solution," the Turkish presidency said.

Soner Cagaptay, a political scientist at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told Xinhua that Ankara hopes to mediate and host final peace talks after two rounds of preliminary discussions between Russia and Ukraine were held in Istanbul and the southern Turkish resort town of Antalya shortly after the conflict.

"Ankara is one of the few capitals that has maintained communication ties with Moscow and Kiev alike," Cagaptay said.

Despite pressure from the United States and Europe, Türkiye has not joined Western sanctions on Russia, believing that talking with Moscow is better than isolating it.

But on the other side, Ankara has defended Kiev's territorial integrity and provided the latter with drones.

Selcuk Colakoglu, director of the Ankara-based Turkish Center for Asia-Pacific Studies, told Xinhua in a recent interview that Türkiye has adopted "a very delicate balancing policy" since the start of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Türkiye's leadership has been keen to capitalize on its previous diplomatic success with the grain deal concluded in June last year, which could work as the first step toward permanent peace.

However, both Cagaptay and Colakoglu emphasized that Ankara's mediator role in the ongoing conflict has limitations.

"So far, Ankara's role in the Russia-Ukraine conflict is to eliminate certain problems, but reaching a final peace deal or solution is not that easy," Colakoglu said.

A source close to the Turkish government acknowledged the difficulty in persuading both sides to agree to begin discussing peace talks.

"If they want to meet in Türkiye and discuss peace, we will certainly encourage it. But we should be realistic about what can be attained by those talks," the source said on condition of anonymity.

READ MORE: Türkiye, Russia agree to send free grain to needy countries

The source added that Türkiye wants to keep communication open to both Russia and Ukraine, and is urging Western allies to do the same.

Meanwhile, Ibrahim Kalin, Erdogan's chief adviser and spokesperson, who has been involved in meetings with both Russian and Ukrainian officials, warned that the conflict is likely to escalate in the coming months.

"More war means more destruction, and a deeper, longer crisis. This is not good for anyone," Kalin on Friday wrote on Twitter.

"Türkiye will continue its efforts for negotiations, ceasefire, prisoner exchange, nuclear security, and grain export," he added.