As a member of the Black Sea community, Turkey has a vested interest in creating harmony among its northern maritime neighbors, Mesut Hakki Casin, an international law professor at Ozyegin University in Istanbul, said.
Like most other states, Turkey does not recognize the Kremlin’s annexation of Crimea -- the third anniversary of which falls on Thursday.
“It has an attitude of envisaging peace between the two friendly countries,” Casin said.
“Turkey, as a NATO country sharing the same coast with Russia and Ukraine, can play an arbitrator role between them.”
On March 16, 2014, a referendum saw Crimean voters opt for separation from Ukraine. This was followed two days later by the formal Russian annexation of the territory.
The international community condemned the Russian takeover and the UN passed a resolution underscoring the illegitimacy of the referendum.
In 2016, the UN General Assembly condemned the “temporary occupation of part of the territory of Ukraine”.
Coupled with the conflict in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine, where Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting government troops for three years, the risk of a “frozen conflict”, in which the fighting ends without political resolution, is high, Casin said.
Threatens world peace
The Donbass conflict has left around 10,000 people dead, according to the UN.
“We can say a tension that preserves its uncertainty but seriously threatens world peace, completed its third year,” he told Anadolu Agency.
The importance of Crimea has strategic importance to both Russia and Ukraine as an outlet to the sea. “This will never change,” Casin said.
“Russia has not given up on Crimea. It has historical, economic and political reasons. It is [also] worth mentioning how hugely devastating this issue is to the economy and military power of Ukraine.”
Emre Ersen, an associate professor at Istanbul’s Marmara University, said a “de facto” scenario had been created in Crimea -- as exists in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Georgian territories invaded by Russian forces -- and the issue had slipped from international attention.
“In other words, there is a legal problem but it has not been reflected politically,” he said.
“The Crimean issue is on the path to become a frozen conflict,” Ersen added.
“Right now, the situations in Syria and the Donbass region are everyone’s priority. Therefore, it does not seem like Crimea is on the international actors’ agenda.