Turkey will restrict the transit of Russian warships through the Black Sea, according to Ankara’s foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, who also affirmed that Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine comes under the “war” category.
“Is this a conflict or a war? We decided on that. Article 19 of the Montreux Convention is very clear. This is a war,” Cavusoglu said in an interview with CNN. The 1936 Montreux Convention allows Ankara to limit naval transit via the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits that connect the Marmara, Aegean, and the Black Sea.
Ships can pass through the straits after giving Turkey a diplomatic notification subject to certain restrictions on the weight of the ships, the arms they can carry, and whether the ships come from a Black Sea country such as Russia, Ukraine, Romania, Georgia, and Bulgaria.
However, during times of war warships are only allowed to pass through if they are not from nations classified to be belligerent. If Turkey is part of the war or feels that it is threatened, it can block the transit of all warships whether they come from a Black Sea nation or not. But the country does not have the right to block civilian vessels, even under adverse conditions.
“Now this conflict has turned into a war, in this case, this is how we apply Montreux for the parties, Russia or Ukraine. Article 19 provides an exception,” Cavusoglu said. “If the ship of the war country will return to its port, an exception is made. We will implement all the provisions of Montreux with transparency.”
This will allow Russian warships to get back to their bases. The minister warned against nations abusing this exemption.
Ukraine had earlier appealed to Turkey to block Russian ships from entering the Black Sea as Moscow launched an invasion of Ukraine’s southern coast from the region. Six warships and a submarine from Russia have passed through Turkey’s straits for the month as of Feb. 27.
Turkey has good relations with both Russia and Ukraine. Ankara has been cautious against acting strongly against Moscow as the country is dependent on Russia for energy imports as well as tourism and trade. Turkey has, however, called for an end to the war.
“On the fourth day of the Ukraine war, we repeat President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan’s call for an immediate halt of Russian attacks and the start of ceasefire negotiations,” Ibrahim Kalin, a spokesperson for the Turkish president, said in a Feb. 27 Twitter post. “We will continue our efforts to help the people of Ukraine and end bloodshed in this unjust and unlawful war.”