Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan — who has emerged as a key power broker since Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine began last year — on Sunday won a presidential election in a runoff vote, stretching his rule into a third decade, EDnews reports citing CNN.
Both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky congratulated Erdogan for his victory.
“We count on the further strengthening of the strategic partnership for the benefit of our countries, as well as the strengthening of cooperation for the security and stability of Europe,” Zelensky said on Twitter.
Erdogan has adopted a crucial balancing act between Kyiv and Moscow, widely known as “pro-Ukrainian neutrality.”
He helped broker a key agreement known as the Black Sea Grain Corridor Initiative that unlocked millions of tons of wheat caught up in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, averting a global hunger crisis. The agreement was extended for another two months last Wednesday, one day before it was set to expire.
In remarks published on the Kremlin’s website, Putin said the election provided “clear evidence of the Turkish people’s support” for Erdogan’s efforts “to strengthen state sovereignty and pursue an independent foreign policy.”
On Putin and NATO: Though Turkey is a member of the NATO alliance that Russia views as an existential threat, Erdogan and Putin have what the Turkish President called a "special" relationship. Erdogan said in an interview with CNN’s Becky Anderson last week that the two nations "need each other in every field possible."
In the interview, Erdogan also said he would continue to block Sweden’s access to NATO, despite Western criticism that he was obstructing a unified front against Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Erdogan accused Sweden of harboring Kurdish terror groups and has preconditioned Stockholm’s accession on the extradition of wanted individuals.
Sweden has refused Turkey’s repeated requests to extradite individuals Ankara describes as terrorists, arguing that the issue can only be decided by Swedish courts.
Sweden’s Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson congratulated Erdogan for his victory Sunday. “Our common security is a future priority,” he tweeted.