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Turkey’s Erdogan calls Putin, Zelenskyy, offers mediation in Ukraine dam crisis

In his first international phone contacts after inauguration, Erdogan sought to expand his country’s mediation role between Moscow and Kyiv.
Alex Babenko/Getty Images

ANKARA — Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan held separate phone calls with Ukrainian and Russian counterparts on Wednesday, offering to set up a joint mechanism to investigate a Ukrainian dam collapse. 

The Nova Kakhovka dam, one of the largest in the country, lies on the Dnipro River in Russian-occupied southern Ukraine. It collapsed on Tuesday, prompting tens of thousands to flee the region.

In his phone calls first with Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelenskyy and then with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, Erdogan tabled a proposal to set up a mechanism involving Russian and Ukrainian experts, the United Nations and Turkey, according to official Turkish readouts. Erdogan pointed to the joint mechanism known as the Black Sea grain deal initiative for the proposal. Turkey and the United Nations brokered the Black Sea deal between Kyiv and Moscow last year, allowing Ukrainian grain and other products to reach world markets. Ankara also hosted a series of meetings between Ukrainian and Russian human rights commissioners to strike a prisoner swap meeting between the two countries.

Zelenskyy, in turn, said he reiterated his country's urgent needs to avoid a disaster after the dam's destruction. "[Turkey's] voice is important when it comes to the withdrawal of occupation troops from Ukrainian territory. It is also important when it comes to the return of our illegally detained citizens, in particular Crimean Tatars," he tweeted.


In his phone call with Putin, Erdogan stressed the need for a “comprehensive investigation of the explosion at the dam that will leave no room for doubt,” according to a readout.

Kyiv and Moscow have been trading blame for the dam's destruction. The Biden administration said Tuesday that it is working with its Ukrainian counterparts to understand the cause. 

During Wednesday’s phone calls, Erdogan also said his country would resolutely continue its efforts to achieve a fair peace between the two warring countries. 

The phone calls, which mark Erdogan’s first known international phone contacts this week after his inauguration on Saturday, reflect Erdogan’s efforts to expand his country’s profile as a mediator between Ukraine and Russia and in other conflicts — an agenda Erdogan had been pushing before the May 14 general elections.

Erdogan’s inauguration was attended by the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia, Turkey's southern Caucasus neighbors that recently fought over the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region. 

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