Turkey is not responsible for Ukraine’s use of an Ankara-made drone in its conflict with pro-Moscow rebels, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in comments published on Sunday.
The Ukrainian army this week released footage of what it said was its first use of the Turkish-made TB2 Bayraktar drone against separatists in the east of the country, where it has been locked in conflict since 2014.
Turkey’s sale of the unmanned aircraft to Kiev complicates its ties with Russia, which has thrown its political weight behind the Ukraine separatists.
The Kremlin warned Wednesday that the use of the Turkish-made drones could escalate the conflict.
“If a state buys (weaponry) from us, it’s no longer a Turkish product. It might be manufactured in Turkey, but it belongs to Ukraine,” Cavusoglu told reporters after meeting his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, on the margins of the G20 summit in Rome.
“Turkey cannot be blamed for this,” he said.
France and Germany — both mediators of the conflict — have also criticised Kiev’s use of a Turkish-made drone.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday brushed aside the criticism, saying his country was “defending its territory.”
The conflict in eastern Ukraine, which erupted shortly after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula, has claimed more than 13,000 lives.
Kiev and its Western allies accuse Russia of sending troops and arms to bolster the separatists, claims Moscow denies.