Live updates: How Russia’s assault on Ukraine affects MidEast

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will have an impact beyond Europe. Follow along for the latest updates affecting the Mideast region.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could develop into the largest state-on-state conflict Europe has seen since World War II. But the war’s effects will not be limited to the continent.

Middle Eastern states have deep ties with both sides in trade, tourism and defense. While North African countries like Egypt and Libya have military ties with Moscow, they also rely on imports of Ukrainian agricultural products. Russia’s leveraging of natural gas in the conflict also has turned the spotlight on Arab Gulf states as oil surged past $100 on Thursday for the first time since 2014.

Turkey lies at the geographic center of the conflict as calls from Kyiv grow for Ankara to close the straits to the Black Sea to Russia’s navy.

Follow along with the latest updates affecting the region:

03.24 a.m., Feb 26: Iran steps up evacuations of its nationals in Ukraine

Iran has stepped up evacuations of its nationals in Ukraine saying Iranian nationals residing in the country can apply for visas at Romanian diplomatic missions in Ukraine.
Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian has been working the phones with counterparts from Ukraine's neighbors, Slovakia and Hungary to help with the effort as fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces escalates in the capital Kyiv.

5:48 p.m., Feb. 25: UAE abstains from UN Security Council vote condemning Russian invasion

The United Arab Emirates abstained from a UN Security Council vote to condemn Moscow's assault on Ukraine on Friday.
Abu Dhabi's abstention came despite a call from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken yesterday emphasizing the need for broad international objection to Russia's war effort.

3:24 p.m., Feb. 25: Ukraine asks Israel to mediate ceasefire talks with Russia

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky has asked Israel's Prime Minister Neftali Bennett if his government would mediate talks with Russia's President Vladimir Putin towards a ceasefire, Israel's Kann News reported.
"Our president believes Israel is the only democratic state that has great relations with both Russia and Ukraine and that could be used in order to facilitate those negotiations," Kiev's ambassador to Israel later confirmed to CNN. "[We] definitely need to change the venue [from Minsk] and we believe Jerusalem could be a good place for that," Ambassador Yevgen Korniychuk said.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said earlier today that Russia is ready to send a delegation to Minsk, Belarus, following Zelensky's statement that he was willing to discuss the issue of Ukrainian neutrality between Russia and the West. Zelensky's office said today the two sides were discussing a possible location to hold talks.
Peskov indicated today that Ukraine's "demilitarization and denazification" – terms Moscow has used to apparently mean regime change in Kiev – remain inseparable parts of any future Ukrainian neutrality.

1 p.m., Feb. 25: Turkey’s top diplomat slams Putin’s call for coup in Ukraine

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu slammed Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s public invitation for the Ukrainian military “to stage a coup” in the country.
“We found this call outlandish,” Cavusoglu said. “It’s unacceptable."

12:53 p.m., Feb. 25: Russia summons Israel’s ambassador over stance on Ukraine

Russia's Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Mikhail Bogdanov rebuked Israel's Ambassador in Moscow Alexander Ben Zvi over Israeli officials' comments criticizing Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.
Bogdanov emphasized "the need to continue efforts to counteract attempts to glorify Nazism," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. Russia's president said yesterday his invasion of Ukraine aims to purge the country of "Nazis."
Russia holds some leverage over Israel. Moscow's military forces in neighboring Syria have long turned a blind eye to Israel's airstrike campaign against Iran-backed militia targets in Syria.

🇷🇺🇮🇱 25 февраля замглавы @MID_RF М.Л.#Богданов принял Посла Израиля в Москве @AlexanderBenZvi.

С российской стороны внимание уделено необходимости продолжения усилий по противодействию попыткам героизации нацизма.

— MFA Russia 🇷🇺 (@mfa_russia) February 25, 2022

10:00 a.m., Feb. 25: Ankara begins evacuation of some 200 Turkish citizens stranded at Turkey’s Embassy in Kyiv

Turkish citizens who sheltered at Turkey's embassy in Kyiv were taken to buses and sent to Romania, Turkey’s pro-government A-Haber television reported.

10:00 a.m., Feb. 25: Lebanon rushes to secure wheat amid Russia Ukraine conflict.

Lebanon's Economy Minister Amin Salam said Friday that the country has no more than one month's worth of wheat reserves.
60% of Lebanon's wheat comes from Ukraine.
Talks are taking place with the United States, India, France and other EU countries to secure further reserves.
Following a cabinet meeting, the government approved the allocation of funds to buy 50,000 tonnes of wheat.

9:35 a.m., Feb. 25: Turkey’s US envoy offers no clarity closing straits

Turkey’s chief diplomat in Washington offered zero clarity on Friday when prompted by former US Ambassador James Jeffrey on whether Turkey may use a 1936 pact to close the Turkish straits.
“Don’t expect Turkey not to follow, not to implement, [the] Montreaux agreement,” Ambassador Murat Mercan said during an event hosted by a Washington, DC-based think tank on Friday. "Anything more than that, anything less than that, that’s not in Turkey’s hand.”

6:25 a.m., Feb 25: Syria’s Assad calls Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a ‘correction of history’

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad spoke with Russia's Vladimir Putin by phone Friday to discuss the situation in Ukraine, per Syrian state-run media.
Assad called Russia's invasion of Ukraine "a correction of history" and "a restoration of balance of the world that was lost after the dissolution of the Soviet Union," according to Syria's SANA news agency.

6:00 a.m., Feb. 25: Erdogan criticizes NATO for failing to prevent Russia’s invasion

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticized NATO and the European Union for failing to present a united front amid the Russian assault on Ukraine.

“NATO should have taken a more decisive step,” Erdogan told reporters, adding that the reaction to the Russian invasion should have gone beyond a “mundane flurry of condemnations." He added that he would discuss the issue with his counterparts during the NATO summit today.

5:00 a.m., Feb. 25: Turkey’s top diplomat: Ankara cannot bar Russian naval forces passage to the Black Sea under Montreux

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Ankara cannot bar Russian naval forces traveling to Black Sea under the 1936 Montreux Convention.

Speaking in Kazakhstan early Friday, Cavusoglu told reporters that Ankara was studying whether the conflict in Ukraine “could be defined as a war,” in response to the official Ukrainian request to close its straits linking the Mediterranean and Black Sea to Russian naval forces. He added that under a clause in the Montreux Convention, even if Turkey decided to accept the request and close the straits to Russian warships, they would only be prevented from traveling to the Mediterranean from Black Sea. 

The clause of the 19th provision of the convention stipulates: “Notwithstanding the prohibition of passage laid down in paragraph 2 above, vessels of war belonging to belligerent powers, whether they are Black Sea powers or not, which have become separated from their bases, may return thereto.”

2:00 a.m., Feb. 25: EU representative praises for Turkey over Ukraine

Speaking in Ankara on Friday, the European Parliament’s Turkey rapporteur Nacho Sanchez Amor said he "welcomed and expressed our strong appreciation for the clear support of the Turkish authorities for the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine in various meetings."

“I would like to stress the importance of strong EU-Turkey cooperation in foreign and security policy," Sanchez said.

6:50 p.m., Feb. 24: US rallies Arab Gulf allies over unified messaging on Ukraine

Top US diplomat Antony Blinken spoke with his Emirati counterpart Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan "about Russia’s premeditated, unprovoked, and unjustified attack against Ukraine and the importance of building a strong international response to support Ukrainian sovereignty through the UN Security Council," per a US readout of the call.
Meanwhile, the State Department's number-two official, Wendy Sherman, phoned her Saudi counterpart, Waleed Khereiji, to discuss the issue, according to the US statement.

3:46 p.m., Feb. 24: Top US diplomat speaks with Turkey’s foreign minister by phone

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu today.
Blinken “thanked Turkey for its strong and vocal support in defense of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity," the State Department said in a statement.

12:30 p.m., Feb. 24: Lebanon condemns Russian invasion

Lebanon's Foreign Ministry condemned Moscow's attack and called on the Kremlin to "halt its military operation immediately and withdraw its forces" from Ukraine.
Beirut's statement cited previous foreign invasions of Lebanon "which led to losses that were felt for many years."
Syria's government under President Bashar al-Assad, meanwhile, adopted Moscow's stance and baselessly blamed Ukraine for triggering the conflict. 

12:15 p.m., Feb. 24: Pentagon chief speaks with Turkish counterpart by phone

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke on the phone with his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar on Thursday after Ankara said it had weighed Ukraine's request to close the Turkish straits into the Black Sea to Russian ships.
The pair discussed “bilateral regional defense and security issues, especially the latest developments in Ukraine,” according to a statement released by the Turkish Defense Ministry.
A senior Pentagon officials speaking to reporters on condition of anonymity later confirmed the call, but offered no details. A Pentagon statement on the conversation is expected to be released later today.

Millî Savunma Bakanı Hulusi Akar ve ABD Savunma Bakanı Lloyd James Austin, 24 Şubat 2022'de bir telefon görüşmesi gerçekleştirdi. Görüşmede Ukrayna’daki son gelişmeler başta olmak üzere ikili ve bölgesel savunma ile güvenlik konuları ele alındı ve değerlendirildi.
— T.C. Millî Savunma Bakanlığı (@tcsavunma) February 24, 2022

12:04 p.m., Feb. 24: Turkish, French presidents speak by phone

Turkey's president spoke to his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron about the situation in Ukraine. 
Earlier today, Macron called for an emergency NATO summit.

11:00 a.m., Feb. 24: Egypt expresses “deep concern” over Ukraine developments

Egypt's Foreign Ministry urged dialogue to resolve Russia's moves against Ukraine in a statement on Thursday afternoon.
"Egypt is following with deep concern the successive developments regarding the situation in Ukraine, and affirms the importance of upholding dialogue and diplomatic solutions, as well as endeavors that would hasten the political settlement of the crisis," a ministry statement read.

11:00 a.m., Feb. 24: Pentagon says Russia aims for regime change in Ukraine

The Kremlin “has every intention of basically decapitating Ukrainian leadership,” a senior US defense official told reporters Thursday morning.
Russia committed more than 100 missiles and about 75 fighter jets during the first wave of strikes last night, the official said.
Later, the official said updated the number to roughly 160 Russian missiles fired into Ukraine. 

10:10 a.m., Feb. 24: Turkey considers Ukraine’s request to close straits

A spokesperson for Turkey's ruling political party said the government was weighing Kyiv's request for Ankara to close the Turkish straits to Russian ships, but offered no clarity on a decision.
Turkey has "assessed all the scenarios" that could come from a decision to close the straits, and "will use its discretion in favor of peace instead of deepening the conflict," spokesperson Omer Celik said during a press conference.
"Preparations both legally and diplomatically have been concluded. We will continue to follow the process. We certainly don’t want tensions to escalate further," Celik said.

9:51 a.m., Feb. 24: Israel’s prime minister softens tone on Ukraine invasion

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett avoided condemning Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in a speech on Thursday evening, taking a more cautious tone than Foreign Minister Yair Lapid did earlier.
“These are difficult and tragic moments, and our hearts go out to the citizens of Ukraine who have fallen into this situation without injustice on their part,” Bennett said.

9:40 a.m., Feb. 24: Bomb hits Turkish civilian ship off Odessa, none hurt

Maritime authorities in Turkey said a bomb struck a Turkish-owned ship off the Ukrainian port city of Odessa on Thursday.
No one was reported hurt and the ship, the Yasa Jupiter, headed for Romanian waters.

6:20 a.m., Feb. 24: Egypt cabinet meets to discuss war’s impact on food imports, fuel prices, tourism

Egypt's government convened a full cabinet meeting on Thursday to discuss preparations for expected impacts on wheat imports, global fuel prices and possible reductions in tourism revenues, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly said today.

5:23 a.m., Feb. 24: Israel condemns Russia’s assault on Ukraine

Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid broke his country’s silence on Russia’s aggression against Ukraine on Thursday, calling the attack “a serious violation of the international order.”
Analysts have speculated that Russia’s military leverage in Syria, where the Kremlin has turned a blind eye to Israeli airstrikes against Iran-backed militias, may lessen Tel Aviv's response to Moscow’s aggression in Europe.

4:30 a.m., Feb. 24: All eyes on Gulf as oil, gas prices surge

Brent crude oil broke $105 per barrel on Thursday after Russia launched attacks across Ukraine.
Futures for gas delivered in the Netherlands, a benchmark for European prices, jumped 30% today.
The Biden administration approached Qatar earlier this month about supplying gas to Europe amid an expected decline in Russian supplies. Doha’s energy minister suggested yesterday that his country could not adequately cover the deficit.

3:30 a.m., Feb. 24: Turkey’s president slams Russia’s invasion as “unacceptable”

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticized Russia’s attack on Ukraine as “a violation of international law” and “unacceptable."
Erdogan spoke with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky on the phone this morning and reiterated support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

2:30 a.m., Feb. 24: Ukraine calls on Turkey to close straits to Black Sea

Ukraine’s ambassador to Turkey, Vasyl Bodnar, called on Ankara to close the straits into the Black Sea to Russian ships.
Russia has more than 10 naval landing craft in the Black Sea and landed troops on Ukraine’s southern coast last night, Pentagon officials said.
Ankara can close the straits in wartime under the 1936 Montreux Convention.

1:39 a.m., Feb. 24: Qatar’s emir speaks with Zelensky, calls for ‘restraint’

Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani spoke with Ukraine's president Thursday morning and "called on all parties to exercise restraint and resolve the dispute through constructive dialogue and diplomatic methods, as well as the settlement of international disputes by peaceful means, and not to take any actions that would lead to further escalation," according to Doha's statement.
Zelensky had a different take on the call: "Received support from the Emir of Qatar @TamimBinHamad," he tweeted. "The world is with us."

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