kyiv pressures Ankara to close the strait to Russian warships | Turkey

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Ukraine is increasing pressure on Turkey to ban Russian warships from the Bosphorus Strait and the Dardanelles, after President Volodymyr Zelenskiy tweeted about what he described as an “extremely large” closure.

Turkey has so far made no public statement about closing the strait to Russian warships, although President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan spoke to Zelenskiy by phone earlier on Saturday, saying Ankara was trying to exert pressure for an immediate ceasefire.

Turkish officials said no decision had been made, and Russia’s Interfax news agency reported that Russia had not received any official notification from the Turkish side about a closure.

Cutting off the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles from Russian warships, preventing them from accessing the Black Sea, would be a significant decision, not only in terms of cutting off long-term Russian support for its troops in Ukraine, but also as a significant show of support for Ukraine.

A ban would prevent Russian warships normally permanently stationed around the world from sailing in the Black Sea to help troops in Ukraine. However, Turkey is unable to prevent ships permanently stationed in the Black Sea from returning to their bases.

On Friday, shipping industry experts Lloyd’s List pointed out that commercial traffic across the Bosphorus had already slowed significantly over the past two days.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry called the Russian invasion “unacceptable”, but described it as a “military operation” rather than a war, as it has implications for the Montreux Convention.

The convention defines Turkish control of the strait as well as limits on the size, tonnage and duration of warships that can pass through the strait, although warships belonging to countries bordering the Black Sea can normally pass without restriction.

Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu outlined Turkey’s stance on closing the strait to Hürriyet daily on Friday, saying officials were discussing whether the conflict meets the definition of a war under the convention. from Montreux.

If officials decide that the definition is met, it allows them to prevent Ukrainian and Russian warships from crossing the strait, although this decision is likely to be much more important for the Russian side.

“Turkey can stop the passage of warships through the strait,” he said, adding that the convention states that “if there is a demand for warships from belligerent countries to return to their bases, then it must be allowed”.

“If we legally accept the state of war, this process will begin,” he added. “Secondly, if we accept the state of war, we will ban the passage of warships…but even if we ban them, the Russians have such a right.”

Turkey maintains alliances with Russia and Ukraine and has so far emphasized its neutrality in the conflict despite selling its Bayraktar TB2 drones to Ukraine and condemning Russia’s actions.

Turkey’s NATO membership has come under pressure from its decision to buy Russia’s S400 missile defense system in 2017, although Erdoğan has recently sought to show how much Turkey values ​​membership. organization, telling reporters that “NATO should have taken a more decisive step”. .

The conflict in Ukraine and a reprimand from Russia if Turkey chooses to close the strait are likely to hit Turkey’s economy hard, already hampered by a year in which the lira lost half its value and as rising costs energy arouses protests and discontent. Turkey imports about a third of its natural gas supply from Russia, as well as much of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine.

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