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Turkey mulls barring Russian warships from transiting the straits: FM

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Turkey is considering whether or not to prevent the passage of Russian warships through the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits in accordance with the 1936 Montreux Convention, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Friday.

Russia on Thursday launched a ground and air offensive in Ukraine.

The same day, Vasyl Bodnar, Ukraine’s ambassador to Turkey, said his country had asked Turkey to close the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits to Russian ships.

Speaking to the Hürriyet daily, Çavuşoğlu said they were mulling whether to consider Russia’s military operation a “war” as there had not been an official declaration.

According to Article 19 of the Montreux Convention, in the event of war, Turkey shall close the straits to the belligerents’ warships.

Turkey may assert that Russia’s armed conflict with Ukraine is not a “war” and therefore that Russia is not a “belligerent power.”

“Turkey can prevent warships from transiting the straits,” the Turkish foreign minister said.

“However, there is another aspect of the Montreux Convention. If warships of the belligerent countries seek to return to their bases, we need to allow their transit,” Çavuşoğlu said.

According to the convention, even if Turkey closes the straits to Russian and Ukrainian warships, it must allow those ships to pass through the straits to return to their bases and join their own fleets.

In that case Russian warships still in the Mediterranean and under the command of the Black Sea Fleet can pass through the straits to sail into the Black Sea.

However, as long as the war continues, they cannot sail from the Black Sea back to the Mediterranean.

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