ANKARA: Turkey will use its authority over the Turkish Straits under the 1936 Montreux Convention to prevent the Russia-Ukraine “crisis” from further escalating.
“Turkey has strictly fulfilled its responsibilities within the framework of the institutions and alliances with which it is involved, especially the UN, NATO, and the EU,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said after chairing a Cabinet meeting in the capital.
Under the convention, NATO ally Turkey can limit naval transit of its Dardanelles and Bosphorus straits during wartime but has a clause exempting ships returning to their registered base.
He praised the struggle of Ukraine’s government and people and called Russian attacks on Ukraine unacceptable.
Erdogan also highlighted dialogue between Russia and Ukraine, saying: “It’s never too late to engage in good faith negotiations and progress (on) all issues peacefully.”
Erdogan reiterated that Ankara will not abandon its ties with Russia or Ukraine.
Both countries share a maritime border with Turkey.
He criticized what he called the “indecisive” stance by the United States and Western powers to Ukraine’s invasion.
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 added.
Since Russia’s war on Ukraine began last Thursday, it has been met by outrage from the international community, with the EU, UK, and US implementing a range of economic sanctions on Russia.
In the war, more than 350 civilians have been killed and over 1,600 injured, according to Ukraine’s Health Ministry.
Earlier Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said, will implement all provisions of the Montreux Convention in a transparent manner as the situation in Ukraine constitutes a “war.”
The Dardanelles and Bosphorus straits will potentially be closed to Russian warships under conditions, that “constitute a war”.
“Under these conditions, we will of course apply the Montreux Convention. In case of a war in which Turkey is not a party, Turkey can shut down the straits for countries that are involved in the war. Article 19 of the Montreux Convention is explicit,” Cavusoglu said.
Cavusoglu also underlined the exception highlighted in the convention, saying Turkey did not have a say in the return of warships of warring states back to their ports or naval bases in home countries.
Stressing that the process should be transparent, Cavusoglu said Russian vessels bound to the bases in the Black Sea were currently present in the Mediterranean.
“Of course, there should not be any exploitation here. I mean, (these vessels) should not be involved in the war…We will implement all the provisions of Montreux in this way, in a transparent manner,” he said.
After Moscow’s military intervention in Ukraine, Kyiv asked Ankara to close the Canakkale (Dardanelles) and Istanbul (Bosphorus) straits to Russian ships.
Speaking to a news channel, Cavusoglu welcomed the upcoming talks between Ukrainian and Russian officials and emphasized the need for a lasting cease-fire.
“This crisis must end. At least the first step should be taken with a cease-fire,” he said.
“We are truly glad that they (Ukraine and Russia) have come to such an agreement. God willing, the negotiations for tomorrow will lead to a cease-fire.”
According to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet for talks at a venue on the Belarusian border with Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a “special military operation” in Ukraine on Thursday, days after recognizing two separatist-held enclaves in eastern Ukraine.