Türkiye to block two UK minehunters en route to Ukraine from traveling through Turkish Straits – JURIST

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The Directorate of Communications for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan released a statement Tuesday confirming the country would not allow two British military minehunter ships en route to Ukraine to travel through the Turkish Straits in keeping with the 1936 Montreux Convention.

In the statement, the Directorate wrote, “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.” The statement also confirmed Türkiye’s policy of classifying the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine as a war for the purposes of the Montreux Convention

The Montreux Convention allows safe passage through the Turkish Straits for warships, without interference from the Turkish government. However, Article 19 allows Türkiye to close the straits to “vessels of war belonging to belligerent Powers.” Türkiye’s classification of the Russian invasion as a war has allowed it to claim that both Ukraine and Russia are “belligerent Powers” for the purposes of the Montreux Convention, and therefore the country has closed the straits to both Ukrainian and Russian warships. This policy has also been applied to the warships of other countries. Türkiye has remained firm in its stance on the convention, continually emphasizing its commitment to unbiased implementation.

Despite the ban on warships in the straits, Türkiye has previously allowed Russian and Ukrainian merchant ships to travel through the straits as part of the 2022 Black Sea Grain Initiative. This initiative, signed by Russia, Türkiye and Ukraine, allowed the safe passage of merchant ships through the straits, with Türkiye inspecting merchant ships to make sure they were not attempting to smuggle any military material and was implemented by the Joint Coordination Centre (JCC). However, the Initiative ended when Russia pulled out in July. Russian President Vladimir Putin has hinted he may be open to reviving the Initiative if some of the current export restrictions on Russian goods are lifted. 

Since the end of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, tensions in the Black Sea have soared. Shortly after Russia pulled out of the Initiative, the Russian Federal Security Service alleged that a grain ship traveling from Türkiye to Ukraine was found to be carrying traces of explosive material in its hold. In August, Russian sailors fired on a cargo ship traveling to Ukraine which they alleged did not stop for inspection. Ukraine eventually established a new corridor to ship grain in the Black Sea, attempting to avoid the Russian blockade after the Initiative ended. However, the new corridor has been plagued with safety concerns over Russian mines and warplanes. Then in late December, the Ukrainian government alleged a cargo ship attempting to export Ukrainian grain struck a Russian mine, injuring multiple sailors. 





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