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Turkiye refuses British ships access to Black Sea for Ukraine naval assistance

January 3, 2024 at 8:19 pm

A speedboat is seen heading toward a minehunter ship on May 8, 2019 [JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images]

Turkiye has rejected the United Kingdom’s bid to send two mine-hunter ships to Ukraine, in a move Ankara insists aims to maintain impartiality in line with international law.

Britain announced last month the transfer of two Royal Navy mine-hunter ships to Ukraine in an effort to support Kyiv’s Black Sea defences.

According to UK Defence Secretary, Grant Shapps at the time, the transfer was the result of a coordinated effort between Britain and Norway to strengthen the Ukrainian Navy, insisting that maritime supremacy is a key part of Ukraine’s fight against Russia’s invasion, as well as the facilitation of grain and steel shipments.

Since the invasion of Ukraine, Turkiye has been firm in its stance to refuse passage to any military vessels linked to Moscow or Kyiv for the duration of the war. Ankara has also stated that it informed its NATO allies of its international obligation not to allow ships belonging to either “belligerent party” in the conflict to use the Bosphorus and Dardanelles Straits.

The stance is in line with the 1936 Montreux Convention, which governs maritime traffic through the Turkish Straits “impartially and meticulously” for the purpose of preventing an escalation of the war. The only exception is for ships returning to their home bases in the Black Sea.

In a statement on X, Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s office said that “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”. Turkiye also criticised any “disinformation about the UK mine-hunting ships” surrounding political or diplomatic controversies.

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