Turkiye, Ukraine 'close' to signing free-trade agreement

With Turkiye and Ukraine set to mark 30 years of diplomatic ties, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will visit Kyiv on Thursday and sign several agreements, according to a Ukrainian diplomat.

Saying they are preparing for President Erdogan's visit, Ukraine's Ambassador to Turkiye, Vasyl Bodnar, told Anadolu Agency they are "working on a busy agenda for the two presidents' meeting."

"We are also preparing a series of agreements," he said.

On Feb. 3, Kyiv is also set to host the 10th High-Level Strategic Council between Turkiye and Ukraine. The heads of the two states are expected to attend the event, which will also mark the 30th anniversary of their countries' relations.

Dating back to 1991, when Ukraine declared its independence, Turkiye was the first to recognize its new status.

Bodnar noted that there is "no doubt" that the visit will be successful, adding they will do their "best to add value to bilateral relations."

"In that respect, we are working on a wide range of agreements. These agreements will ensure that our cooperation is further strengthened and widened in the near future. Indeed, one of the most important areas is the strengthening of the mutual trade and the development of cooperation, especially in the customs matter," Bodnar said.

With aims to strengthen trade relations, a number of deals between the two countries' economies and trade ministries will be signed, said Bodnar, adding agreements on education, culture and the defense industry are also expected to be signed to further develop cooperation between Ankara and Kyiv.

Saying there are ongoing negotiations to finalize a free trade deal between Turkiye and Ukraine, Bodnar noted: "In my opinion, both parties are very close to signing the deal."

- Trade volume close to reaching $10B mark

Talks on the long-awaited free trade agreement have been ongoing for 12 years as the Ukrainian side is primarily discussing reducing customs duties for itself, according to the Ukrainian diplomat.

While noting that there is a "serious difference" in customs duties at the Turkish border, Bodnar said the talks continue and that there is no date set for signing the free trade deal. Still, both parties are "doing their best to sign the deal during President Erdogan's visit."

"We will sign an agreement that will be beneficial for the business world of both countries," he added.

Underscoring that the trade volume between the two countries continues to increase despite no free trade deal, Bodnar said Turkiye and Ukraine reached approximately $6 billion in the trade of products/goods according to data for 11 months of 2021.

Noting that another $1 billion will be added from the tertiary sector, he said the trade volume between Turkiye and Ukraine is expected to reach over $8 billion after adding all the numbers from last year's data.
"At this rate, we will reach the $10 billion target that our presidents previously set," he added.

On the issue of energy, Bodnar said, "Russia continues to use gas supply as a political weapon."

"We are working on diversification of our energy supplies, starting from buying some gas from the European market and into looking for different perspectives of supply through different dimensions and sources," he said.

- Turkiye - Ukraine strategic partnership

Saying there will be "consultations between Ukraine and Turkiye on some possible prospects" on energy supply, Bodnar, without giving details, said his country is "working with other partners to look not only at the gas market but also into diversifying different energy resources, like green energy, like hydrogen."

On bilateral relations with Turkiye, he said the two countries have "a very high level of bilateral partnership. We have a strategic partnership."

Saying that President Erdogan and President Volodymyr Zelensky are "very close friends and have trustful open dialogue," Bodnar stated that "our strategic partnership is based on trust on based on common interests and is based on the common vision of the future of our region."

He further thanked Turkiye and other partners like the US and UK for their steps and efforts to find a solution to his country's ongoing tensions with Russia.

However, he stressed that it is "abnormal for the world to watch how Russia is preparing for war in the 21st century."

Criticizing international organizations like the UN and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Bodnar stressed that their "efforts are insufficient."

He cited President Erdogan's motto, "The World is Bigger than Five," and said, "Indeed, the world is bigger than five."

The UN Security Council consists of five permanent members – China, France, Russia, the UK and the US.

Noting that one of those permanent members is acting against international law, he said the civilized world should not follow the developments on the sidelines, but on the contrary, give a correct position to all these incidents and find a response to prevent war.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian ambassador said the current events are nothing new and that his country has been dealing with them for the past eight years.

"We would like to make a call to our international partners, especially those who are observing from the inside (the country): Do not panic," he added.

Reminding that Ukraine was not the side to begin the tensions, Bodnar said his country "wants to resolve the issue peacefully."

On that note, he thanked and welcomed Turkiye's offer to play a mediator role between Russia and Ukraine.

"I think it is possible to carry out the mediation process in Turkiye or in another country. The important thing is Russia accepts it. The Ukrainian side supports it and is ready for it," he said.

Russia has recently amassed tens of thousands of troops near Ukraine's eastern border, prompting fears that the Kremlin could be planning another military offensive against its former Soviet neighbor.

Moscow has denied that it is preparing to invade and said its troops are there for exercises. The Kremlin issued a list of security demands, including Ukraine not joining NATO, to calm tensions.

On Jan. 26, after a series of talks, the US and NATO handed their written responses to Russia's demands.

Source: AA

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