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Turkey tells Russia it can mediate Ukraine nuclear plant stand-off

Erdogan has previously warned of 'another Chernobyl' as Russia continues to occupy Europe's largest nuclear plant in Zaporizhzhia
Ukrainian Emergency Ministry rescuers attend an exercise in the city of Zaporizhzhia on 17 August 2022, in case of a possible nuclear incident at the nuclear power plant near the city (AFP)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, on Saturday that Ankara can mediate the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant stand-off in Ukraine.

"President Erdogan stated that Turkey can play a facilitator role in the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, as they did in the grain deal," the Turkish presidency said. 

Turkey and the United Nations brokered a deal in July between Kyiv and Moscow to resume grain exports from Ukraine, one of the world's top grain exporters. The exports were halted after the Russian invasion in February. 

Last month, Erdogan warned of the danger of a nuclear disaster when he visited Lviv for talks with his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky. 

"We are worried. We do not want another Chernobyl," the Turkish leader said.

There has been growing alarm over the safety of Europe's largest nuclear plant, Zaporizhzhia, which is at present occupied by Russia.

A 14-strong team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) visited Zaporizhzhia on Thursday, with the UN nuclear watchdog's chief, Rafael Grossi, saying that the site had been damaged in fighting.

During the call with Putin on Saturday, Erdogan noted Russia's "constructive role" in organising the IAEA mission, according to the Kremlin. 

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French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday defended his policy of keeping up a dialogue with Russia, saying that Turkey should not be the only power speaking with Moscow. 

Before meeting with Zelensky, Erdogan met with Putin in Sochi, where the two countries pledged to boost their economic cooperation. 

The Kremlin said on Saturday the two leaders confirmed "the intention to expand trade and economic ties, including the promotion of joint strategic projects in the energy sector". 

Erdogan and Putin agreed to talk further in Samarkand on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit on 15-16 September, according to the Turkish presidency. 

The Turkish leader also passed on his condolences for the death of the last leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, in the first such reaction from Ankara.