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A Turkish 180 On Crimea?

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Claim: Turkish Prime Minister Has Done A 180 And 'De-Facto Acknowledged' Crimea Is Part of Russia

Veracity: Mostly Untrue

Sergei Markov, a Russian analyst with strong ties to the Kremlin (who has posted copious Facebook notes on the situation in Ukraine), claimed in a shared Facebook post that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has indirectly admitted Crimea is a part of Russia.

The basis for the claim? An outtake from a speech Erdogan delivered in Eskisehir, a city in Turkey's heartland with a significant Crimean Tatar population.

"I have talked to Russian President [Vladimir] Putin on the events in Crimea and told him that Russia should protect the rights of Crimean Tatars as they do with the Russian majority and other minorities in Crimea," he said.

The argument goes as follows: If Erdogan is asking Putin to protect Crimean Tatars, he is acknowledging that it is the Russian president who has the authority to do so. The peninsula would have to be in Russian hands for Putin to have that authority.

Without context that statement alone could indeed leave some ambiguity in the prime minister's position.

But in fact, in an official statement about the very phone call Markov references, the prime minister's office says Erdogan stressed "Ukraine's political unity and territorial integrity" needed "absolute protection."

Ahmet Davutoglu, who made a point of being the first foreign minister to visit the new government in Kyiv, has also pointed to preserving the territorial integrity of Ukraine as one of the main goals of his diplomatic efforts.

So, it is premature to claim Turkey has accepted Russia's dominion over Crimea, but how strongly Ankara will react if Moscow does annex the peninsula is another question.

As I write here, Erdogan is likely torn between support for Crimean Tatars -- a Turkic people with a large diaspora in Turkey -- and the important trade relationship his country has with Russia.

-- Glenn Kates