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2 Jan, 2024 17:03

NATO state won't let UK send minesweepers to Ukraine

Citing international law, Türkiye has said it will block the vessels from entering the Black Sea
NATO state won't let UK send minesweepers to Ukraine

The Turkish government said on Tuesday that it will not allow minesweeping vessels that the UK has pledged to donate to Ukraine to enter the Black Sea. Ankara, which controls the straits linking the Black Sea with the Mediterranean, shut down access to foreign warships when the conflict in Ukraine began in 2022.

British Defense Secretary Grant Shapps announced last month that the UK would hand over two Royal Navy mine-hunting ships to Ukraine. Shapps claimed that by clearing Russian mines, the craft would make it easier for Ukraine to conduct naval operations against Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, while clearing export routes to bolster the country’s battered economy.

In a statement on Tuesday, Türkiye said that these ships will not make it to the Black Sea.

“Our relevant allies have been informed that the mine hunting ships donated to Ukraine by the United Kingdom will not be allowed to pass through the Turkish Straits to the Black Sea as long as the war continues,” the Turkish presidency’s communications directorate said.

Türkiye controls the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits, which connect the Black Sea with the Mediterranean and the wider world. Under the 1936 Montreux Convention, Ankara is obliged to grant free passage to civilian ships and limited passage to military craft through these waterways during peacetime, but in wartime, can deny access to the military ships of belligerent parties.

Within days of Russian troops entering Ukraine, Türkiye “immediately defined Russia's special military operation against Ukraine as a ‘war’ and closed the Straits to warships of the warring parties (Russia and Ukraine) in accordance with Article 19 of the Montreux Straits Convention,” the communications directorate said. 

Türkiye “has been implementing the Montreux Convention impartially and meticulously since 1936,” the statement continued, adding that it will maintain this “unwavering determination and principled attitude throughout this war.”

While the decision forbade Western powers from sending warships to Ukraine, it also blocked Russia from reinforcing its Black Sea fleet, which is based in the Crimean port of Sevastopol.

Although Türkiye is a member of NATO, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has described the country’s position on the Ukraine conflict as “balanced.” In addition to hosting peace talks in 2022, Türkiye brokered the now-defunct Black Sea Grain Initiative, while Ankara has refused to sanction Russia, and has strengthened its trade links with Moscow.

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