Turkey further risks Russian ties by closing Bosphorus to naval vessels
Turkey says Russia has cancelled a request to send four warships through the Bosphorus to the Black Sea to assist its invasion of Ukraine.
Russia and Ukraine are Turkey’s largest grain suppliers and half of its gas comes from Russia.
Turkey this week said the Bosphorus and Dardanelles were closed under a 1936 agreement because of the invasion of Ukraine.
The Montreux Convention, which was designed to maintain peace in the Black Sea, states that Turkey controls the link between the Mediterranean and Black seas and can refuse access to naval vessels during wartime or if under threat. The deal does not include ships returning to their permanent bases.
By the Russian invasion on February 24, 16 Russian warships and a submarine had entered the Black Sea under the pretext of the “military exercises” that preceded the war.
In peacetime, Turkey may limit the size of shipping entering the Bosphorus, impose notification requirements on warships in the straits and limit the warships of non-Black-Sea states to 21 days in the sea.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told the Turkish media that Turkey asked Russia not to send its vessels to the Black Sea and labelled the invasion a “war”, enacting the convention.
Three of the four ships – two destroyers, a frigate and an intelligence vessel – were not registered at Black Sea bases, Cavusoglu said.
“We told Russia not to send these ships and Russia said the vessels would not cross the straits,” the veteran minister said.
“Nobody should be offended by this, because the Montreux Convention is valid today, yesterday and tomorrow.”
The straits were closed to belligerents during the Second World War.
The US praised Turkey’s decision and Vasyl Bodnar, Ukraine’s ambassador to Turkey, said Kyiv was grateful that Turkey had “meticulously” implemented the agreement.
Turkey has called the Ukraine invasion an unacceptable violation of international law but it has also called for dialogue and offered to host peace talks.
Cavusoglu has said Turkey will not impose sanctions on Russia. Turkey also abstained from a February 25 vote on suspending Russian membership from most Council of Europe bodies.
Ukraine’s defence minister, Oleksii Reznikov, said on Wednesday that another shipment of Turkish drones is due to arrive in Ukraine, which is expected to anger the Kremlin.
The Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drones are credited with destroying large numbers of armoured vehicles from the invading force.
Russian naval vessels are a familiar sight from Istanbul. Picture credit: YouTube