Turkey became a key player in diplomacy for international politics as well as critical mediation efforts for the resolution of regional and global crises in 2022 by hosting a trilateral meeting between the Turkish, Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers, the Black Sea grain initiative talks, Russia-Ukraine prisoner swap talks, the Antalya Diplomacy Forum and the Istanbul Mediation Conference.
In March, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman embarked on an overseas trip to Istanbul and the Turkish capital Ankara. During her trip to the Turkish cities on March 4-5, she met with Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Önal and other officials and discussed bilateral ties, regional developments and Russia’s war on Ukraine.
In efforts to end the war in Ukraine and reach a lasting peace, Türkiye on March 10 convened a trilateral foreign ministers meeting and brought together for the first time since the start of the war Russia’s Sergey Lavrov and Ukraine’s Dmytro Kuleba in the resort city of Antalya on the margins of the annual Antalya Diplomacy Forum.
During the meeting, followed by nearly 400 local and foreign journalists, Türkiye emphasized the need to keep humanitarian corridors open.
Turkish officials stressed that humanitarian corridors in Ukraine should be kept open without any obstacles; Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu also said they underlined the need for a sustainable cease-fire.
The meeting between the Ukrainian and Russian foreign ministers was civil despite all the difficulties, and the most important outcome of the talks was establishing contact.
“Türkiye is one of the countries that Ukraine is looking to among guarantors for a possible sustainable peace agreement,” the minister underlined.
The 8th Istanbul Mediation Conference was also held on the same day with the attendance of high-level representatives of international organizations, including United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who sent a video message.
Another important meeting on March 10 was between President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev. During the meeting in Ankara, the two leaders discussed the latest situation in the Russia-Ukraine war, bilateral relations, and the contribution of the cooperation of Türkiye and Azerbaijan to European energy security.
Antalya Diplomacy Forum
The Antalya Diplomacy Forum was held on March 11-13 under the theme of “Recoding Diplomacy.”
With participants from 75 countries, at least 17 heads of state and government, 80 ministers and 39 representatives of international organizations attended the forum.
On the sidelines of the event, Erdoğan held 11 bilateral meetings, while Çavuşoğlu held 67 meetings.
Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan also attended and met with Cavusoğlu. The two ministers reiterated their approach to the continuation of the process, which aims at full normalization and the establishment of good neighborly relations between their countries without preconditions.
On March 13, Erdoğan had a meeting with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in Istanbul in which increasing cooperation and focusing on the positive agenda was emphasized.
According to a statement from the Presidency’s Directorate of Communications, the two leaders also highlighted the idea that Türkiye and Greece have a special responsibility in building Europe’s security in the face of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The statement said they also agreed on keeping communication channels open and improving bilateral relations despite disagreements between Ankara and Athens.
Despite these efforts, bilateral relations between the two NATO allies and neighboring countries followed a negative trend for the rest of the year.
Erdogan received the U.N. chief on April 25. Furthermore, the Türkiye-Africa Media Summit was organized on May 25 by the Directorate of Communications. At least 80 media members attended the event. And also diplomats, academics, representatives from the private sector, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) from 45 African countries.
Landmark Istanbul deal
On July 22, Türkiye, the U.N., Russia and Ukraine signed a landmark agreement in Istanbul to resume grain exports from three Ukrainian Black Sea ports, which had been paused due to the war. Days before its scheduled expiration, the landmark grain deal was extended for another 120 days, beginning on Nov. 19.
Many countries congratulated and appreciated Türkiye and the U.N. for the initiative, and more than 14 million tons of grain have been carried by 556 ships via the Black Sea grain corridor so far.
Additionally, Türkiye mediated a necessary prisoner swap between Ukraine and Russia, which was carried out with the exchange of 200 prisoners in September.
Erdoğan told reporters in New York City that the prisoner exchange under Türkiye’s mediation was an “important step” toward ending the war between the two countries. He noted that efforts to establish peace between Russia and Ukraine continue.
On Aug. 6-12, the 13th Ambassadors Conference took place under the theme “Wise and Compassionate Turkish Diplomacy in 2023 and Beyond.” Turkish ambassadors at home and abroad exchanged views on regional and global issues closely related to Turkish foreign policy.
The extraordinary meeting of foreign ministers of Organization of Turkic States (OTS) member states was held in Istanbul on Oct. 17. In addition to the priority issues on the agenda of the OTS, the preparations for the OTS summit held in Samarkand on Nov. 11 were also discussed.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg paid a visit to Türkiye on Nov. 3-5 and was received by Erdoğan. He also met with Çavuşoğlu and Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and thanked Türkiye for its role in the resumption of the Black Sea grain initiative.