Interview of President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy to the Turkish news agency Demirören
- In recent years, Turkish-Ukrainian relations have experienced a golden era. Cooperation is deepening in many areas. How can you explain the strong strategic partnership between the two countries? What are your expectations from the visit to the Republic of Turkey?
- It is quite logical for our nations to be together in today's complex and contradictory world. We are not just neighbors. We equally tell the world that the voice of every nation must be heard in full. This and much more unites us.
Our strategic partnership is based on long-term friendship, mutual respect and a wise understanding of the feelings of our societies. We are grateful to Turkey for its consistent and absolutely sincere support of Ukraine, for its help in defending the territorial integrity of our state. This will not be forgotten by all generations of Ukrainians.
In addition, developing our cooperation, we are working on NATO integration. The armed forces of your country are among the leaders in skill and combat power in the world. In this regard, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that a large number of Ukrainian servicemen are trained in the training centers of the Republic of Turkey, gaining the latest knowledge and experience of working with the best representatives of NATO forces. This approach has also proved important in our country's gaining of a status of a special partner of the Alliance.
And if we talk about the specific expectations from the visit, the content of our talks is traditionally so broad that it is impossible to single out one thing. It will be about the further development of economic cooperation - the establishment of joint ventures, investment, development of energy cooperation and much more.
By the way, I would like to congratulate the Turkish people on the confirmation of large reserves of natural gas in the Black Sea. The development of this field will significantly change the balance of power in the region - for the benefit of the Republic of Turkey and your friends.
- Negotiations between Ukraine and Turkey on a Free Trade Agreement have been underway for a long time, but the result is still unattainable. What are the main reasons for blocking this process? Can the agreement be expected to be signed soon?
- There are no unattainable results for good friends. Negotiations on such agreements can be easy only with those countries whose market means nothing. Turkey and Ukraine are completely different. Our common economic potential is huge. So, there are a lot of nuances that need to be agreed on, and it takes time.
However, we are already at the finish line. I hope that the Agreement will be signed as soon as possible. In just three years, Turkey and its friends will celebrate the centenary of the establishment of the Republic. We would like to approach this holiday with a much larger baggage of economic contacts. The swift signing of the Free Trade Agreement will significantly help us achieve this goal.
- Turkish investments in Ukraine have reached a high level. How do you assess the activities of Turkish business in Ukraine? In what areas would you like to see more Turkish investment?
- The assessment of Turkish business can consist of one word: excellent! Companies from your country are engaged in the construction of roads and other infrastructure, provide high-quality mobile communications. We can talk about representatives of small and medium business for a long time - just look at the number of Turkish businesses in the big cities of Ukraine. But even all this, I am sure, is only the initial stage of our cooperation. We can do much more together.
Expanding joint work on projects in the field of infrastructure, banking, shipbuilding is the first task. But this does not conclude our opportunities. We expect broad participation of Turkish business in the privatization process in Ukraine. The policy of our state is based on the idea of maximum assistance to investors. We will always be ready to help in the field that the business will choose to work in.
- The defense industry is considered a new star of Turkish-Ukrainian cooperation. Are there any new joint projects that the two countries plan to implement in this area? Is it possible to start joint production of Turkish drones and Antonov aircraft?
- You are right, this area is among the priorities in our relations. We are watching the development of the military-industrial complex of your country with great interest and respect. And, frankly, we have something to learn in many of its components. But we should not be too modest as well. After all, the Ukrainian defense industry is rightly famous for its traditions and reliability. We know very well what modern war is. Therefore, having such a base, it is absolutely logical for us - Ukraine and Turkey - to join efforts.
For example, Turkish drones have proven themselves to the best of their ability. We see that this is truly the pride of your military-industrial complex. This is exactly the type of weapon that can radically change the situation on the battlefield. And we are definitely interested in joint production. There is nothing special to explain, everything is simple. Turkey is showing great success in this direction, and we are buying these products. Ukraine, in turn, produces engines for drones. So launching a joint venture is a natural step.
As for Antonov aircraft, we are certainly pleased to observe interest in this enterprise. And it is just as logical that in the field of aircraft construction, we can do a lot together with our Turkish friends.
Moreover, I will say that these are not all areas in which we can and expect to cooperate with the Republic of Turkey in the context of the defense industry. Engine construction, development of air defense systems, joint production of a "corvette" class ship ... The potential for cooperation is huge.
- Another important point in bilateral relations is tourism. After the opening of the border during quarantine, Turkey became the most desirable country for Ukrainian tourists again. What steps are being taken to develop the potential of cooperation in the field of tourism?
- We are going through a difficult period because of the pandemic - all countries on the planet. But I would like to note that even at that time, Turkey managed to provide the highest level of security for tourists. This is a good testament to the organization and wisdom of Turkish society. I would also like to emphasize that the number of Turkish tourists in Ukraine has increased. Turkey is already in the top 10 countries whose citizens most often visit our country. And we see the trend of increase in the number of such visits. After the end of the pandemic, we will probably see our societies reach a new level in this area.
- You are making great efforts to establish peace in Donbas. Do you hope that this process will be positive soon?
- We have already made significant progress compared to what we started with when I came to power. First, we managed to reboot the negotiation formats. The conversation of diplomats is always better than the "conversation" of guns. Many people held captive in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine were released. The ceasefire has been almost 100 percent adhered to on the frontline for more than 80 days. If we do not take into account some occasions of provocative shelling, we can talk about a lasting silence, which was established for the first time in more than six years.
This inspires confidence that it is possible to achieve peace. But the path to peace is a two-way movement. Russia must also complete its part. Much depends on Moscow's position in terms of how quickly we can reach the end of the war. We believe that the war can be ended any day: today or tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow. But it is necessary to carry out a complete deoccupation and return all our temporarily occupied territories under the control of Ukraine.
- Chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people Refat Chubarov stated that there are problems in the systemic interaction and cooperation of the Mejlis with the state authorities of Ukraine. Do you agree with that? Do you think that the Crimean platform will create an effective solution to the problems of the Crimean Tatars? How do you see the role of Turkey in this regard?
- Unfortunately, after 2014, no institution was created that could become a platform for solving the problems of Crimea and, above all, for the development of mechanisms that can end the occupation. That is why we are creating the Crimean platform. We anticipate that this will help consolidate the efforts of all civilized countries and public forces both in Ukraine and abroad to work for the benefit of Crimea. And for the benefit of the Crimean Tatar people. We hope that the representatives of the Mejlis will join this work. Our common task is to work out solutions for the return of Crimea to the control of the Ukrainian state as soon as possible.
And we hope for a serious role of Turkey in this matter. After all, is it possible to solve anything without Turkey in our region? Of course not.
- What can you say about Turkey and the Turkish people? Do you have any unforgettable impressions and memories from visiting Turkey?
- This question leads to a whole separate interview. Turkey is such a rich and ... diverse country that it is simply impossible to list everything that I remembered. Can anybody shortly describe Istanbul? Or the beautiful Turkish coast? Your country is like the whole world. And it is quite natural that such significance of your country is transformed into political power.
In general, Turkey is of special importance to our people. When, after many years of Soviet rule, the borders opened, it was Turkey that showed millions of Ukrainians what real hospitality in another country is and what a really great holiday is. For Ukrainians this forever combined the image of Turkey with emotions from the warmth and generosity of Turkish society.