Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is set to meet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul this Friday, March 8, to discuss the ongoing war with Russia and issues concerning Black Sea navigation, according to an announcement from the Turkish presidency.

The meeting will take place at the Dolmabahce Palace, with a press conference scheduled for 7:00 p.m. local time.

As the Turkish presidency stated on Thursday, the focus of the discussion will be on Russia's war against Ukraine, including efforts to establish a secure corridor in the Black Sea.

Zelensky's last visit to Turkey was in July 2023, during which he held extensive discussions with Erdogan, who also maintains close ties with Moscow.

Upon his return to Kyiv from the previous visit, Zelensky brought back five top commanders from the Azov regiment, who were part of a prisoner exchange deal with Moscow.

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The Azov regiment played a significant role in defending Mariupol until its capture by Russian forces in May 2022.

Turkey, despite its reliance on Russian energy supplies, has refrained from imposing sanctions on Moscow and has been accused by Western nations of bypassing them.

However, Turkey, along with the United Nations, previously brokered a deal between Russia and Ukraine to permit the export of Kyiv’s grain through the Black Sea until Russia withdrew in July 2023.

Following Russia’s exit from the agreement, Ukraine began utilizing an alternative route for its grain shipments along the coasts of Bulgaria and Romania in August of the same year. Turkey has been actively advocating for an agreement to ensure safe navigation for cargo ships in those waters.

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Last week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited Turkey, holding discussions with his Turkish counterpart Hakan Fidan at a diplomatic forum.

Since the onset of the Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Turkey has maintained careful diplomacy with its Black Sea neighbors. Turkey still aims to revive peace efforts from 2022 when top negotiators from both countries met in Istanbul.

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