Foreign Policy Research Institute

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Foreign Policy Research Institute

tel. +38 (044) 287 52 58

President Zelensky builds the southern vector of Ukraine’s foreign policy

On 7-8, August Volodymyr Zelensky was on his first official visit to Turkey for two days. The first day he together with Mustafa Dzhemilev and Refat Chubarov took part in the opening of the joint center of the Crimean Tatar Diaspora in Turkey in the capital Ankara. During the opening ceremony of the Center Volodymyr Zelensky met with the Crimean Tatar community of Turkey. After the ceremony, negotiations between Zelensky and Turkish President, Erdogan began in a "face to face" format. They lasted almost two hours. The leaders discussed the Russian-Ukrainian war in the Donbass, the occupation of Crimea and the problem of persecution of the Crimean Tatars, economic cooperation and cooperation in the construction of roads and airports in Ukraine.

The key topics of the talks between the Presidents of Ukraine and Turkey were: threats of militarization, which continues in the occupied Crimea, violations of human rights on the Peninsula and persecution of the Crimean Tatar people. "Together we will find a way that will make Russia respect international law, return peace and stability to the region, protect the rights and freedoms of Crimean Tatars and release the Kremlin's political prisoners. I am sure that by joint efforts of Ukraine and Turkey we will change the situation in the Black Sea region and in Crimea on our side," Volodymyr Zelensky said. Erdogan, in response, stressed that Turkey has never recognized and does not recognize the illegal annexation of Crimea and supports the territorial integrity of Ukraine. Zelensky thanked Erdogan for this position.

In addition, Erdogan said that it was time to complete negotiations on the creation of a free trade zone between Ukraine and Turkey. Following the talks, Zelensky and Erdogan gave a joint press conference: After the bilateral talks in the presence of the heads of state, a Protocol on an Agreement on the use and exploration of space between the National Space Agency of Ukraine and the National Space Agency of the Republic of Turkey was signed. The second day of the President's visit to Turkey began with a visit to the Ukrainian-Turkish business forum. There Volodymyr Zelensky made several interesting and important statements. In particular, he announced the land reform in 2019.[1]

Zelensky chose Israel as the second link of the southern vector of Ukraine's foreign policy. For this purpose he met with Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu on August 19. Why was so much attention paid to the visit of the Prime Minister of Israel to Ukraine after a 20-year break? Therefore this visit really looked like something special. The questions that Netanyahu raised during the talks with the Ukrainian President concerned the free trade zone, the pension agreement and a number of other topics.

 However, many assumed that actually the Israeli Prime Minister has the purpose to retain power and positions in the future coalition. Given that on September 17, Israel will hold extraordinary parliamentary elections, experts express the opinion that the visit to Kyiv are primarily aimed at obtaining votes from Israelis-immigrants from Ukraine, which, according to various polls estimates from 500 thousand to 1 million. In addition, according to the Director of the Diplomatic Academy, Korsunsky, Netanyahu was definitely interested in the phenomenon of Zelensky's victory in the presidential elections and the success of his political force in the parliamentary elections, and decided to see personally what is so special about the Ukrainian President as a politician. Also, many assumed that at the meeting parties will discuss the possibility of Israeli mediation in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, as well as the transfer of the Ukrainian Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

What were Netanyahu and Zelensky actually talked about? About the partnership of states. After a three-hour conversation, the parties signed bilateral documents with the participation of ambassadors. In particular, agreements on cooperation in sports, education and agriculture were signed. At a joint briefing, Volodymyr Zelensky and Benjamin Netanyahu announced the topics and agreements that were discussed during the meeting: trade and economic relations between the states; extension of the free trade zone agreement; problems with the entry of Ukrainians into Israel. Zelensky and Netanyahu agreed to solve the problem of denying Ukrainians visas to Israel. Zelensky called on Israel to recognize the Holodomor as genocide of the Ukrainian people. Netanyahu invited Zelensky to visit Jerusalem. The parties discussed the agreement to open high-tech development centers in Kyiv and Jerusalem.

What consequences will this visit have? Ukraine and Israel remain partners. The President of Ukraine stressed that the next 5 years Ukraine will grow rapidly, for which it needs investment and technology. Therefore he invited Israeli companies to come to work in Ukraine, which is very important, due to the increasingly powerful role of the IT industry. Cooperation between the two countries in the defense sector is of particular importance, although this topic is not particularly advertised during Netanyahu's visit to Kyiv. At the same time, the President of Ukraine noted that our country will develop in the areas of security and defense, following the example of Israel, once again reminding his own thesis that Ukrainians "must become Israelis in defence of our land."[2]

Thus, Zelensky's visit to Turkey and Netanyahu's visit to Ukraine contributed to the improvement of Ukraine's relations with the two countries and allowed to outline the contours of the southern strategic vector of Ukraine's foreign policy in the political, security and economic spheres.