ISTANBUL/MOSCOW (Reuters) - Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan told Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday that it was largely up to Ukrainians to resolve their country’s crisis, and said instability in the Black Sea nation would have regional repercussions.
The leaders spoke by telephone about the situation in Ukraine and its southerly Crimea region, which lie across the Black Sea from Turkey. Crimea has a large Turkic speaking minority and is now under Moscow’s control.
Erdogan told Putin “that it is foremost the responsibility of Ukrainians to resolve the country’s crisis” and emphasized that “instability in (Ukraine) would negatively affect the entire region”, a statement from Erdogan’s office said.
A Kremlin statement focused on Crimea and suggested the two leaders were in broad agreement.
“Both sides expressed certainty that, despite the aggressive actions of radical and extremist forces of the Maidan, there would be success in providing for inter-ethnic and interfaith peace and calm in Crimea,” it said.
The “Maidan” refers to the square in the Ukrainian capital that was the focus of a bloody, three-month political confrontation that led to the overthrow of Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich last month.
There is tension in Crimea between Christian Slavs, including ethnic Russians, and Crimean Tatars - Turkic speaking Muslims who were exiled en masse by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin but now make up about 12 percent of Crimea’s population.
Additional reporting by Ayla Jean Yackley in Istanbul; Writing by Steve Gutterman; Editing by Kevin Liffey