Erdoğan’s recent statement on Crimea mere political gesture, says expert

A statement from Turkey earlier this week on not recognising Crimea is a mere political courtesy gesture by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan towards Ukranian Presdent Vladimir Zelensky and will not affect Ankara-Moscow relations, the head of the Centre of the Near and Middle East of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies Vladimir Fitin said. 

"Erdogan made this statement because it was Zelensky. He repeated it again to please the Ukrainian partner. It is like music to the ears of the Ukrainian president," Russia's state news agency TASS quoted Fitin as saying.

Erdoğan during a joint news conference with his Ukranian counterpart on Wednesday said that Turkey would not recognise Russia’s annexation of Crimea, calling the move illegal. 

Russia annexed Crimea, an autonomous republic in southern Ukraine, in 2014. There are 280,000 Crimean Tatars living Crimea, who constitutes almost 13 percent of the population, according to the Turkish Foreign Ministry. 

Pointing to the fact that Erdoğan’s statements are not new, Fitin said they will not affect the cooperation between Ankara and Moscow.

"Russia and Turkey are interested in economic cooperation and continuing it," Fitin said, despite differences between the two countries on a number of issues, most notably the Syrian crisis. 

The Turkish president  "confirmed the previous position of Ankara that it does not recognize Crimea’s reunification with Russia and fully support the Crimean-Tatar diaspora, which particularly is on the Turkish territory as well," Fitin added.

Crimea, which was ruled by Ottoman Empire for three centuries until it was taken over by the Russian Empire in 1783, has always held a position of special importance Black Sea countries, particularly Turkey and Russia.