U.S. Coast Guard Legend-class national security cutter USCGC Hamilton (WMSL 753) sets sail in the Bosphorus, on its way to the Black Sea, in Istanbul, Turkey April 27, 2021.Turkey on 27 February closed the Bosphorus and Dardanelles for all warships under the Montreux Convention amid the Russian special operation to demilitarise and denazify Ukraine. Russian Ambassador to Turkey Aleksei Erkhov told Haberturk on Wednesday that Moscow appreciates Ankara’s stance on abiding by the convention.”Our country has closed the straits for the warships of warring sides”, says Cem Gürdeniz, retired rear admiral of the Turkish Navy. “However, the warships of littoral states should be allowed to return to their ports on the Black Sea even after this decision. As part of this, I understand that the Turkish Foreign Ministry will not accept NATO’s declarations of passage to the north. Since NATO is providing military assistance to Ukraine it thus openly declared itself as an ally of the belligerent side. Under these conditions, I consider the statement of the Turkish Foreign Ministry, which announced the closure of the Straits for all warships, to be correct and appropriate”.The 1936 Montreux Convention is an international agreement governing the Bosporus and Dardanelles. It regulates the movement of ships in peacetime through the straits. The convention allows warships of any class belonging to the Black Sea states to freely pass through the straits. Yet, military vessels of non-Black Sea states face restrictions in terms of class, tonnage, and time spent in the Black Sea. In addition, Turkey has the right to close the straits to warships during a military conflict.CC BY-SA 3.0 / Alexxx Malev / Bosphorus Bridge Bosphorus Bridge Bosphorus Bridge According to the Turkish newspaper Daily Sabah, Ukraine officially asked Turkey to close access to the Black Sea to Russian ships. However, Ankara “did not immediately respond to this request”, according to the newspaper, adding that Turkey maintains working relations with both Moscow and Kiev.Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu explained to CNN Turk on 27 February that Ankara cannot prevent Russian and Ukrainian ships from accessing the Black Sea as Article 19 of the Montreux Convention allows vessels from littoral states to return to their home base.Turkey, which has the largest coastline along the Black Sea and the largest exclusive economic zone, must maintain stability and the status quo in the waters of the Black Sea in the context of the Russian special operation, according to Gürdeniz. He notes that it would only be possible if everyone follows the provisions of the convention while Turkey is maintaining an “active neutral status”. According to the retired rear admiral, it is because of the Montreux Convention that blood has not been spilled in the Black Sea since the end of the Second World War. The naval veteran praised Ankara’s well-balanced position on the ongoing situation over Ukraine.
"Turkey is well aware of the geopolitical cause of the [Ukraine] crisis", says Gürdeniz. "This follows from the words of President Erdogan that 'our country repeats again and again that the world has been undergoing a process of radical transformation for some time'. This indicates that Turkey is aware of a geopolitical transformation, and correctly applies the provisions of the Montreux Convention under the present conditions. I believe that this decision by Turkey will facilitate the speedy conclusion of an agreement on a ceasefire and a diplomatic resolution of the crisis".
Russia launched its special operation aimed at defending Donbass and demilitarising and de-Nazifying Ukraine on 24 February. In response to Moscow’s operations European and North American countries introduced new sanctions against Russia, including disconnecting seven Russian banks from SWIFT and other measures against various economic sectors of the country. Meanwhile, Turkish presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin told journalists on 1 March that Turkey does not plan to introduce restrictions against Russia because Ankara does not want to harm its interests, as quoted by Hurriyet Daily News.