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7 Jan, 2024 00:08

Türkiye must let ‘defensive’ warships into Black Sea – ex-NATO commander

James Stavridis says Ankara should act in accordance with its role as a member of the US-led military bloc
Türkiye must let ‘defensive’ warships into Black Sea – ex-NATO commander

Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander James Stavridis has claimed there is no justification for Türkiye to prevent the UK, a fellow member of the US-led military bloc, from donating its warships to Ukraine.

The Turkish government said on Tuesday that it will not allow minesweeping vessels which the UK has pledged to Ukraine to pass through the Bosphorus, citing the 1936 Montreux Convention. Ankara, which controls the straits linking the Black Sea with the Mediterranean, shut down access to foreign warships when the Ukraine conflict escalated in 2022.

Stavridis, however, claimed that “there is sufficient discretion” under the Montreux Convention to allow British warships into the Black Sea, and Ankara should have used a loophole to allow the passage of “purely defensive” vessels.

“This is the clear NATO position, agreed by Turkey as part of its role in NATO,” the retired US admiral told Politico. Ankara “should fully lean into its role as a NATO member,” he insisted, instead of “trying too hard to strike a balance” with Moscow and the West.

Türkiye, a NATO member, closed access to the Black Sea through the Bosphorus and Dardanelles shortly after Russia launched its military operation almost two years ago. 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.

A former Turkish naval chief, Admiral Cem Gurdeniz, said in a post on X (formerly Twitter) that Ankara has never breached the convention, “even during the bloodiest period of WWII.”

“The US hates the Montreux Convention, to which it is not a party. Because they cannot bring warships into the Black Sea as they wish,” Gurdeniz argued.

Gurdeniz blasted Stavridis, calling him “the neocons’ favorite Admiral,” who “played a leading role in the 2011 intervention in Libya.”

“The Admiral, who is currently a board member of the Rockefeller Foundation and the global investment group Carlyle, clearly wants Turkey to be the warring party in the Black Sea and to shed Turkish blood in the war,” Gurdeniz said. “If the Ukraine crisis had happened during his NATO command, we would probably be at war in the Black Sea on behalf of the USA and NATO.”

Turkish 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.