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Published: Sunday March 9, 2014 MYT 11:40:02 PM
Updated: Sunday March 9, 2014 MYT 11:41:02 PM

Merkel and Erdogan: Ukraine sovereignty must be protected at all costs

BERLIN (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan agreed in a telephone conversation on Saturday that the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political unity of Ukraine needed to be protected at all costs.

They agreed that the risk of confrontation in Crimea needed to be eliminated and that a referendum planned for March 16 on Crimea joining Russia was "extremely dubious" and "illegal", according to a joint press statement issued by the German government on Sunday.

Merkel and Erdogan stressed the importance of fulfilling international obligations for overcoming the crisis and said efforts to form an "international contact group" and a committee to investigate violent incidents of recent weeks were important.

Erdogan said Turkey was prepared to help the international contact group given his country's close relationships with Ukraine and Russia, as well as its special relationship and contact with the Crimean Tatars.

(Reporting by Michelle Martin; Editing by Mike Collett-White)

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