Turkey's top diplomat says in Moscow that war must stop

During a press conference with Russian FM Sergey Lavrov, Turkish FM Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has called for a ceasefire in Ukraine, saying that Ankara will press on with diplomatic efforts to end the war. Earlier in the day, Lavrov said that Russia values Turkey’s "balanced stance" towards the Ukraine crisis and appreciates Ankara’s implementation of the Montreux Convention.

Çavuşoğlu (L) and Lavrov are seen during a press conference on March 16.

Reuters - Duvar English 

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, speaking alongside his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on March 16, said the war in Ukraine must stop and Ankara would press on diplomatic efforts to arrange a lasting ceasefire.

Çavuşoğlu told reporters after a meeting with Lavrov that NATO member Turkey hoped Russian President Vladimir Putin would meet Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy as a step toward peace.

"The war must stop, people must not die. I came here to Moscow with this understanding today," Çavuşoğlu said.

"We have shared our concerns in a sincere way and done our part to ease tensions and open the stage for diplomacy," he said. "We would like to host this (Putin-Zelenskiy) meeting when the situation comes to that point...for a lasting ceasefire."

Lavrov said there were no obstacles to a meeting between Putin and Zelenskiy but that it would only take place to seal a specific agreement. 

Last week Lavrov and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba held talks in Turkey in the first such meeting since Russia invaded Ukraine.

Çavuşoğlu said Turkey's priority was evacuating citizens remaining in the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol after more than 15,000 Turks had already left the country, which is to the north across the Black Sea.

Moscow has denied targeting civilian areas in what it calls a "special military operation" in Ukraine. 

Russia says it values Turkey’s 'balanced stance' on Ukraine crisis

Earlier in the day, Lavrov said that although Russia and Turkey have different positions on Ukraine, Moscow appreciates Ankara's "balanced stance" on the issue. 

"We have some differences of opinion with regards to Ukraine, but Turkey's balanced stance is very valuable for us," Lavrov said ahead of his meeting with Çavuşoğlu. 

Lavrov said Russia also appreciates that Turkey remains committed and fully implements the Montreux Convention.

Çavuşoğlu, for his part, said that Ankara has displayed a “clear, balanced and objective stance" from the very beginning.

"As a country that has good ties with both Russia and Ukraine, Turkey continued its role as an honest mediator and facilitator despite all difficulties," Çavuşoğlu said. 

He said that Turkey will continue to implement the Montreux Convention.

Çavuşoğlu will also visit Kyiv to hold talks with his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba on March 17.