Erdogan says Turkey ready to mediate between Ukraine and Russia - NTV

FILE PHOTO: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of parliament from his ruling AK Party (AKP) during a meeting at the Turkish parliament in Ankara, Turkey, November 27, 2018. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

ANKARA/MOSCOW (Reuters) - Turkey is ready to act as a mediator between Ukraine and Russia, President Tayyip Erdogan was cited as saying by broadcaster NTV on Monday, despite having angered Moscow by selling armed drones to Kyiv earlier this year amid tensions in eastern Ukraine.

U.S., NATO and Ukrainian officials say Russian forces have massed on the border of Ukraine, which is also battling Moscow-backed separatists who control part of its territory in the east.

Ukraine's military intelligence has said Moscow was preparing for an attack in early 2022. Russia has dismissed the comments as "malicious" U.S. propaganda.

NATO member Turkey has good ties with both Kyiv and Moscow, but opposes Russian policies in Syria and Libya. It has forged close energy and defence cooperation with Russia, but has also sold Turkish-made drones to Kyiv, angering Moscow.

Speaking to reporters on a flight from Turkmenistan, Erdogan was cited as saying by NTV and other media Turkey wanted the Black Sea region to be in peace, adding he was discussing the issue with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin frequently.

"Whether it is as a mediator or speaking to them about the issue, by holding these talks with Ukraine and Mr Putin, God willing, we want to have a part in the solution of this," he was cited as saying.

Asked about Erdogan's offer, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment.

Last month, Moscow said the Turkish drones risked having a destabilising impact in east Ukraine, after Kyiv deployed one to hit a position controlled by Russian-backed separatists. Turkey has said it cannot be blamed for Ukraine's use of the drones.

Russia-backed separatists have been fighting government troops in Ukraine's Donbass region since 2014, soon after Russia seized the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine.

Turkey has also criticised Moscow's annexation of Crimea and voiced support for Ukraine's territorial integrity.

(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu in Ankara and Dmirty Antonov in Moscow; Editing by Jonathan Spicer, Daren Butler, William Maclean)

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