Ankara reiterated its mediation proposal to host peace negotiations between Kyiv and Moscow, pursuing a terminological change in defining the ongoing Russian assault on Ukraine as a “war” — a strong wording compared to its earlier statements that described it as an “unacceptable military intervention.”
Ankara’s latest move sparked debates about whether it will implement the wartime articles of the Montreux Convention on its Dardanelles and Bosporus straits that would bar Russian warships not associated with the Black Sea fleet from crossing the Turkish straits for the duration of the conflict.
“We are witnessing yet another war in our region. President Erdogan has offered to mediate between Russia and Ukraine as we have strong relations with both countries. . He also called for a unified stance on the part of the allies,” Fahrettin Altun, Turkey’s communications chief, tweeted.
Another critical question is whether Turkey can play an effective role in mediating between the warring parties at a time when Ankara is attempting to maintain its good ties with Ukraine and Russia to secure both its energy imports and tourism flows from Russia and defense cooperation with Ukraine.
In a similar vein, Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, said in an interview with Turkish broadcaster CNN Turk that “the situation in Ukraine is officially a war according to the Article 19 of the Montreux Convention.”
On the first day of the war, Ukrainian Ambassador to Ankara Vasyl Bodnar urged Ankara to close the straits to the passage of Russian warships.
But Cavusoglu emphasized that Turkey cannot block all Russian warships reaching the Black Sea because a clause in the Montreux Convention exempts those returning to their registered bases.
Ankara’s move to describe events in Ukraine as a war under the Montreux Convention gives Turkey the right to act accordingly. Until Sunday, it termed the conflict as a “military intervention” or an unacceptable “operation.”
So far, Turkey’s senior officials repeatedly urged the parties to begin ceasefire negotiations and to immediately halt Russian attacks.
As a diplomatic tool, Turkey attaches high importance to mediation. A decade ago, it launched with Finland the Mediation for Peace Initiative, a group of countries that work on different mediation practices.
Turkey’s mediation offers have been consistently welcomed by the Ukrainian side, while Russia would welcome any Turkish effort to convince Ukraine to come into compliance with the existing Minsk Protocol of 2015 as a result of any mediation offer.
Ryan Bohl, a senior Middle East and North Africa analyst at Rane Intelligence, said that Turkey’s announcement to partially close the Bosporus straits to Russian military activity will probably make the country appear less neutral in any potential Ukrainian-Russian peace talks.