Ukraine and Turkey sign free trade deal after a decade of delays

3 February 2022, 07:48 PM

Ukraine and Turkey signed a free trade agreement during Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s state visit to Kyiv on Feb. 3, the Ukrainian presidential press service reported.

Turkey and Ukraine first floated the idea of a free trade agreement in 2011, but long-running negotiations then stalled until April 2021, when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met Erdogan and agreed to conduct an audit of disputable issues.

Following an official ceremony at the Mariinskyi Palace, the ceremonial residence of the Ukrainian president, Zelensky and his Turkish counterpart spoke for some time, before joining the tenth meeting of the High-Level Strategic Council between Ukraine and the Republic of Turkey.

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The meeting ended with a press conference, during which Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and the Minister of Trade of Turkey Mehmet Mus signed the Free Trade Agreement in the presence of the two presidents.

Commenting on the signing of the document, Zelensky said that Erdogan’s visit to Ukraine was taking place on a historic day, as Ukraine and Turkey established diplomatic relations exactly 30 years ago.

“Today a very significant event has become the culmination of three decades of cooperation and friendship – our countries have signed an agreement on a free trade area,” Zelensky said.

“I congratulate everyone on this important step. I am grateful to our teams for these negotiations. We have travelled a long and difficult path to unveil new horizons of cooperation.”

In turn, Erdogan said that the agreement would boost trade between the two countries to $10 billion, and he expressed confidence that this goal would quickly be reached.

Among other things, Ukraine and Turkey have agreed to expand the production of Turkish-made Bayraktar UAVs, which will help increase Ukraine’s defense capabilities. A Ukrainian-deployed Bayraktar was recently touted as being responsible for destroying a piece of artillery used by Russian proxy forces Ukraine’s occupied eastern Donbas territory.

In addition to the free trade agreement, the two countries also deepened relations in other areas, according to the Office of the President of Ukraine.

Commenting on the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, Erdogan said that he hopes it will be resolved peacefully, and stated that his country is ready to organize a summit of the leaders of Ukraine and Russia on its territory.

Earlier on Feb. 3, delivering remarks at a press conference at Esenboga Airport in Ankara before leaving for Ukraine, Erdogan said: “We express on every platform our support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, our strategic partner and neighbor.”

“We, as a Black Sea country ourselves, call on all the parties to act with restraint and pursue dialogue in order for peace to prevail in the region.”

On Feb. 3, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkey also published a press release regarding the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations with Ukraine, stating that “relations with Ukraine have registered remarkable progress in recent years on the basis of mutual understanding, trust and common interests. This also contributes to the peace, stability and prosperity of our region.”

The statement emphasizes that Turkey supports the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, does not recognize the illegal annexation of Crimea, and advocates a peaceful solution in the Donbas in accordance with international law.

“Joint efforts to protect the rights and interests of our Crimean Tatar kinsmen, who constitute a bridge of friendship and cooperation between Ukraine and our country, further strengthen Turkey-Ukraine relations,” the statement reads.

At the same time, the U.S.-based Bloomberg news service quoted President Erdogan’s communications director, Fahrettin Altun, as saying that military cooperation between Ankara and Kyiv is not intended to target Russia and won’t be disrupted in order to please it – and that includes the sale of Bayraktar drones.

Turkey has sought to leverage its ties between Russia and Ukraine by offering to mediate between the two in order to defuse the current Russian military escalation on Ukraine’s border. Turkey might host Russian President Vladimir Putin following Erdogan’s Ukraine visit, but the date of such a summit has yet to be decided, Altun said.

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