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Turkey to Block British Mine-Destroying Ships From Reaching Ukraine

Map of Turkey's Montreux Convention
The Bosphorus (red), the Dardanelles (yellow), and the Sea of Marmara in between are collectively known as the Turkish Straits. Credit: Thomas Steiner, via Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 2.5

Turkey will not allow two minehunter ships donated to Ukraine by Britain to pass through to the Black Sea.

Minehunter Ships to Ukraine to Be Blocked

Last month, Britain announced it would transfer two Royal Navy minehunter ships to the Ukrainian Navy as part of a new maritime defense coalition with Norway aimed at helping to bolster Ukraine’s operations at sea.

It is understood that the two Sandown Class minehunter ships, which seek, detect, and destroy naval mines, would enable Ukraine to better counter the threat from Russian sea mines and help the country regain its export routes through the Black Sea.

Turkey’s directorate of communications said the NATO member had informed its allies it will not allow the vessels to pass through the Bosporus and Dardanelles Straits while the war in Ukraine continues.

In a statement posted on social media platform Twitter, the directorate said: “Our pertinent allies have been duly appraised 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.”

In February 2022, when Russia invaded Ukraine, Turkey triggered the 1936 Montreux Convention, which blocks passage between the Mediterranean and Black Sea for military ships of the warring parties.

The convention was signed at Montreux on July 20, 1936 by Bulgaria, France, Great Britain, Greece, Japan, Romania, and Turkey. It was also signed by Yugoslavia and the USSR. According to the agreement, the International Straits Commission was abolished, and Turkey gained full control of the straits with the right to fortify the waterway.

The pact stops ships from returning to home bases, though neither Ukraine nor Russia has publicly stated its intention to pass their warships through the straits to the Black Sea since the war began.

Turkey has also advised nations that aren’t part of the Black Sea region to not send warships through the straits. According to the convention, warships of non-fighting countries can pass through the straits in time of war. However, Ankara has the final say on the transit of all warships. This depends on whether Turkey feels it is in danger of being pulled into a conflict.

The presidency in Turkey said the country has implemented Montreux impartially and meticulously to prevent escalation in the Black Sea. It is understood that despite not permitting ships to pass on to Ukraine, Ankara maintains good relations with both Kyiv and Moscow amid the war.

Britain has not yet responded to the announcement that its ships will not be allowed through the straits. The country set up the Maritime Capability Coalition with Norway to make Ukraine’s navy more compatible with those of Western allies.

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