SAWT BEIRUT INTERNATIONAL

| 23 February 2024, Friday |

Turkey cannot stop Russian warships accessing Black Sea, says foreign minister

Due to a stipulation in an international treaty that permits boats to return to their home base, Turkey cannot prevent Russian warships from reaching the Black Sea via its straits, as Ukraine has demanded, the Turkish foreign minister stated on Friday.

Ukraine has asked Turkey to prevent Russian warships from traveling through the Dardanelles and Bosphorus straits, which lead to the Black Sea, after Moscow started a full-fledged attack on Ukraine from land, air, and sea on Thursday.

As part of the invasion, Russian soldiers landed in Ukraine’s Black and Azov Sea ports.

Under the 1936 Montreux Convention, Turkey has control over the straits and can limit the passage of warships during wartime or if threatened, but the request has put the NATO member in a difficult position as it tries to manage its Western commitments and close ties with Russia.

Speaking in Kazakhstan, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey was studying Kyiv’s request but said Russia had the right under the Convention to return ships to their home base, in this case the Black Sea.

So even if Turkey decided after a legal process to accept Ukraine’s request and close the straits to Russian warships, he said, they would only be prevented from travelling in the other direction, away from their home base into the Mediterranean.

“If countries involved in the war make a request to return their vessels to their bases, that needs to be allowed,” the Hurriyet daily quoted Cavusoglu as saying.

TURKEY’S BALANCING ACT

Cavusoglu added that Turkish legal experts were still trying to determine whether the conflict in Ukraine could be defined as a war, which would allow the convention mandates to be invoked.

Ukraine’s ambassador to Turkey, Vasyl Bodnar, said on Friday Kyiv was expecting a “positive response” from Ankara to its request.

Cavusoglu also reiterated Ankara’s opposition to imposing economic sanctions against Russia, a stance that has set Turkey apart from most of its NATO allies which have already announced such measures.

Turkey has cultivated good ties with both Russia and Ukraine. It has said the Russian attack is unacceptable and that it supports Ukraine’s territorial integrity but has avoided using words such as “invasion” to describe what is happening.

Ankara has pursued cooperation with Moscow on defence and energy but has also sold drones to Ukraine and inked a deal to co-produce more. It also opposes Russian policies in Syria and Libya, as well as its annexation of Crimea in 2014.

    Source:
  • Reuters