Turkey mindful of Crimean Tatar safety

ANKARA - Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has expressed the country's sensitivity towards the safety of Crimean Tatars in Crimea in light of the ongoing crisis in Ukraine in a phone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin late Thursday.

The two leaders also discussed bilateral relations, mainly regarding trade and energy issues, and exchanged views on the recent developments in Ukraine.

Last month, Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu touched upon the same "sensitivity" with Erdogan as he said that "ensuring the safety and well-being of Crimean Tatars is Turkey's priority regarding the situation in Ukraine."

Turkey's President Abdullah Gul honored Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Abdulzhemil Kirimoglu with the "Republic Medal of State" at a ceremony in Ankara Tuesday marking the Crimean 'struggle for freedom.' 

Crimean Tatars make up roughly 13 percent of Crimea's 2.1 million population. In 1944, they were deported en masse to Central Asia by Moscow and only returned to Crimea as the Soviet Union collapsed in the late 1980s.

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