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Turkish politicians call on gov’t to remain loyal to Montreux in wake of Ukraine war

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With Russian President Vladimir Putin’s launch of a military operation in Ukraine, leaders of Turkey’s opposition parties have called on President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government to remain loyal to the Montreux Convention and to call for an immediate ceasefire, according to local media reports.

Putin, who had amassed over 100,000 Russian troops around Ukraine in recent months but denied he had any intention of invading, on Thursday announced a military operation in Ukraine.

The move comes just days after Russia recognized two separatist-held enclaves in the eastern part of the country, which drew international condemnation and announcements of tougher sanctions on Moscow.

The state-run Anadolu news agency said explosions were reported in several Ukrainian cities, including the capital Kyiv, and tanks reportedly crossed the border from Belarus into Ukraine early Thursday, adding that Russia was targeting key areas in cities with weapons and missiles.

Speaking during a public event in Denizli on Thursday, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said Turkey should “remain loyal” to the Montreux Convention, which is “very important for its security.”

“The Montreux Convention should not be applied differently at the suggestion of others. Any wrong step can take a heavy toll [on Turkey],” Kılıçdaroğlu warned.

Under the 1936 Montreux Convention, Ankara has control over the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits and can limit warship passage if it is threatened or during wartime.

Sharing a maritime Black Sea border with Ukraine and Russia, Turkey, a NATO member, has called the Russian move against Ukraine “unacceptable” while opposing sanctions.

A recent request by Ukraine to close the Bosporus and Dardanelles to Russian ships has put Turkey, which has good relations with both countries, in a difficult position.

The CHP leader said that in a well-functioning democracy, a government would not let the county become so economically dependent on another country, as Turkey has done with Russia, its main gas supplier.

Meral Akşener, leader of the Good (İyi) Party, an ally of the CHP, on Thursday held an emergency meeting with party representatives in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Following the meeting, Akşener said in a public statement that it was inevitable that the Russian attack would have “devastating consequences” for the citizens of Ukraine and the country’s infrastructure and economy.

“As there is little the government can do about this worrisome situation in the current environment of military conflict, and considering the fragility of our economy, priority should be given to minimizing the repercussions of the crisis on our country,” Akşener said.

She also noted that all political party leaders in Turkey should be regularly informed about developments in the conflict and come together when necessary, since overcoming this crisis can only be possible by determining the steps to be taken in accordance with Turkey’s national interests within the framework of consultation and common sense.

The Central Executive Board (MYK) of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) also said in a statement that they “unequivocally reject” the invasion by Russia in violation of international law, calling on Moscow to cease military operations and reopen the channels of negotiation, and for Ukraine to abandon an attitude that could increase tension between the two countries.

They also urged the AKP government to use all its authorities and responsibilities arising from the Montreux Convention, and for international institutions, including the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), to take the initiative for the protection of civilians and the prevention of humanitarian tragedies.

Former Turkish prime minister and current leader of the opposition Future Party (GP) Ahmet Davutoğlu also called on Erdoğan to remain loyal to the convention, underlining that the war between Russia and Ukraine affected the fate of not only the two countries, but all of them.

“The territorial integrity of Ukraine must be protected. … Countries should come together to maintain peace and stability in the Black Sea, especially Georgia. A ceasefire must be called for immediately,” Davutoğlu added.

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