Turkey blocks passage of two British minehunter ships intended for Ukraine

Turkey says it will deny use of its Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits as long as the war in Ukraine continues

Arpan Rai
Wednesday 03 January 2024 06:25 GMT
File: Zelensky says he had talk with Hungary’s Orban ahead of Nato summit on Kyiv membership

Turkey has rejected Britain’s bid to send two minehunter ships to Kyiv via its waters, saying it will refuse passage to any military vessels linked to Russia or Ukraine for as long as the war continues.

Britain had announced the transfer of two Royal Navy minehunter ships to the Ukrainian Navy in support of Ukraine’s Black Sea defences against the Russian invasion.

Announcing the transfer last month, UK defence secretary Grant Shapps said it was part of the collaborative effort between Britain and Norway to bolster the Ukrainian Navy.

Strong maritime forces are critical for Kyiv to fight back against Russia’s aggression and facilitate shipments of grain and steel through the Black Sea, Mr Shapps had said.

But Turkey says it has informed its Nato allies that it has an international obligation not to allow ships belonging to either “belligerent party” in the conflict to use its Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits.

"Our pertinent allies have been duly apprised 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 president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s office said in a statement posted on social media platform X.

The statement added that Turkey closed down the straits in line with the Montreux Convention of 1936 as soon as the invasion began in February 2022.

“Türkiye immediately classified Russia’s special military operation against Ukraine as ‘war’ and, in accordance with Article 19 of the Montreux Convention Regarding the Regime of the Straits, closed the Straits to warships of the belligerent parties (Russia and Ukraine),” the statement said, as it criticised “disinformation about the UK mine-hunting ships”.

The presidency said Turkey had implemented the Montreux Convention, which governs maritime traffic through the Turkish straits, “impartially and meticulously” in order to prevent an escalation of the conflict in the Black Sea.

According to the pact, ships returning to home bases are exempted, but neither Russia nor Ukraine has expressed an intention to pass their warships through the Turkish straits to the Black Sea since the war started.

Turkey also warned non-Black Sea states at the time the war began not to send warships through the straits.

According to the Montreux Convention, warships of non-belligerent parties can transit through the straits in time of war. But the convention also says Ankara has the final say on the passage of all warships, if Turkey considers itself in danger of being drawn into a war.

Ankara has maintained ties with both Kyiv and Moscow throughout the conflict, and has taken part in peace talks aimed at ending the war.

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