February 3rd will mark the 25 anniversary of diplomatic relations between Ukraine and Turkey. “We have achieved a level of real strategic partnership. […] Turkey is our key partner in this region. Turkey consistently stands for territorial integrity of our country and takes a very important stand on Crimea. Moreover, this partnership is backed up by real actions,” stated Andrii Sybiha, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine in Turkey at a press briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center within a joint project of UCMC and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine “Diplomacy without borders”.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and the President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had three meetings last year. In the nearest future Ministers of Foreign Affairs of both countries will hold a meeting in Kyiv. In addition, one more presidential meeting and Strategic Council will take place in the first half of 2017.
Accroding to Andrii Sybiha, détente between Turkey and Russia will not harm Ukrainian-Turkish relations. “Our relations should not be analysed in a “triangle”, where normalization of relations between Turkey and Russia will have negative impact on bilateral relations between Ukraine and Turkey. We have our own policies, we are strategic partners. We clearly explain our position and understand concerns of one another. Ukraine and Turkey is a good example of “win-win” relations,” stressed the Ambassador.
He reminded that Turkey was among co-authors of UN resolution on human rights situation in Crimea, where Russia is mentioned as an occupying power and Crimea is referred to as a temporarily occupied territory. In addition, on December 31 Turkey and Ukraine signed an agreement on a 5-year financial aid to the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Within the Agreement, Ukrainian army will receive nearly USD 3 million yearly.
Within the discussion on Turkish Stream Ukraine offers solutions that would be in the interests of both parties. “We do not blame Turkey for their intention to diversify natural gas supplies […], however, we see North Stream-2 and Turkish Stream as purely political projects. That’s why we offer Turkey to consider opportunity of using our gas transmission infrastructure and our underground gas storages in the period of peak load of the energy system,” explained Andrii Sybiha. He noted that Ukraine will fulfil all its commitments on gas transmission to Turkey. Nowadays Turkey receives nearly 20 per cent of its gas via Ukraine.
Turkish investments in Ukraine increased by USD 60 million over 2016, the total amount is now USD 260 million. Most of these are investments into industry (30 per cent) and communications, as well as wholesale and retail trade. Ukrainian investors in Turkey invest mostly into industry and services. According to Andrii Sybiha, there are up to 600 enterprises with Ukrainian capital.
Тrade between Ukraine and Turkey has reached almost USD 4 billion in 2016. However, in recent years it has been decreasing by 20-25 per cent yearly. “Our main objective is to stop this tendency and to restart growth,” said the Ambassador.
Negotiations on Free Trade Agreement are still going on. “As of today, we need to agree on nearly 1800 of 22 thousand positions of the Agreement,” said Andrii Sybiha.
Last year marked a record increase in tourist flow: over 1 million Ukrainian tourists travelled to Turkey in 2016. “This is 50 per cent more than in previous years. The number of Turkish citizens who visited Ukraine has grown by 30 per cent,” noted Mr. Sybiha. He mentioned that Ukrainian and Turkish citizens enjoy visa-free regime. In addition, now they can stay in the host country up to 90 days.
Transport connection has improved over the last year. A regular Kyiv-Ankara flight has been launched. Moreover, Turkey and Ukraine signed an agreement on combined ferry connection. Every week there are 186 flights between Turkey and Ukraine.
Turkey provided 65 tones of humanitarian aid for displaced persons from Donbas and civilians in the frontline area over the past two years. Nearly 300 children of Ukrainian soldiers had holidays in Antalia within a charity project coordinated by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey. This summer Turkey will host one more group of Ukrainian children. It total, Ukraine received nearly USD 50 million from Turkey.
The number of Turkish students willing to study in Ukraine has doubled last year. “We have finished negotiations between the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine and the Council of Higher Education of Turkey. This year we are going to finalize this project and to sign an agreement that will create better opportunities for students of our countries,” noted Andrii Sybiha. In addition, one of universities in Ankara will offer Ukrainian language courses for its students.
Cooperation with Crimean Tatars in Turkey
There are nearly 7 millions of Crimean Tatars in Turkey. According to Andrii Sybiha, Crimean Tatars diaspora is an important “bridge” in Turkish-Ukrainian relations. “We have meetings with the representatives of Crimean Tatars organizations during our visits to the regions. When Mustafa Dzhemilev arrives with a visit to Turkey, we always hold a meeting to discuss our agenda,” said Andrii Sybiha. Crimean Tatars often attend meetings of Ukrainian diaspora and the Embassy. Ukrainian Embassy in Turkey and Crimean Tatars will jointly organize a number of commemorative events.