President Tayyip Erdogan on Monday said that Turkey will implement an international pact that would potentially limit the transit of Russian warships from the Mediterranean to the Black Sea.
“We have decided to use the power given to our country by the Montreux Convention in a way that will prevent the crisis in Ukraine,” Erdogan said.
He repeated, however, that Turkey could not abandon its ties with Russia or Ukraine, amid Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
NATO ally Turkey on Sunday called Russia’s invasion a “war,” allowing it to invoke articles under the 1936 Montreux Convention that will limit the passage of some Russian vessels from Turkish straits. Turkey shares a maritime border with Ukraine and Russia and has good ties with both.
Speaking after a cabinet meeting, Erdogan criticised what he called the “indecisive” stance by the United States and Western powers to Ukraine’s invasion, saying the approach was a sign of a failing international order.
He said Turkey would not compromise from its commitments to its alliances, including NATO, but that it could also not turn back on “national interests” in its region. He repeated that he found the Russian invasion unacceptable.
Kyiv had appealed to Ankara to block any more Russian ships from entering the Black Sea, from which Moscow launched an incursion on Ukraine’s southern coast. At least six Russian warships and a submarine transited Turkey’s straits this month.
On Sunday, Turkey changed its rhetoric to call Russia’s assault on Ukraine a “war.”
“It is not a couple of air strikes now, the situation in Ukraine is officially a war … We will implement the Montreux Convention,” Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, said in an interview with broadcaster CNN Turk.
Balancing its Western commitments and close ties to Moscow, Ankara had called the Russian attack unacceptable but until Sunday had not described the situation in Ukraine as a war.
The rhetorical shift allows Turkey to enact the articles of the Montreux Convention that permits it to limit naval transit of its Dardanelles and Bosphorus straits during wartime, or if threatened.
Yet Cavusoglu reiterated that Turkey cannot block all Russian warships accessing the Black Sea due to a clause in the pact exempting those returning to their registered base.
“There should not be any abuse of this exemption. Ships that declare returning to their bases and passing through the straits should not be involved in the war,” Cavusoglu said. [Reuters]