Turkey blocks passage to the Black Sea for all warships


Erdogan announces restrictions to 'stop escalation' based on 1936 agreement

ISTANBUL -- Turkey on Monday warned countries not to send warships through straits to the Black Sea after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan invoked a 1936 agreement to "stop escalation" in Ukraine.

"We have alerted both countries of the region and elsewhere not to pass warships through the Black Sea," Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said. "We are applying the Montreux Convention."

The 1936 Montreux Convention governs the free movement of commercial ships in peacetime through the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles straits.

But it grants Turkey the right to block the passage of warships in both straits, which connect the Aegean, Marmara and the Black Sea, in wartime if threatened.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had just clarified Turkey's position as a Nato member "not to abandon either Russia or Ukraine" and not to "cede Turkey's national interests".

"We have decided to use the Montreux Convention to prevent the escalation of the crisis," Mr Erdogan said after a Cabinet meeting.

Ukraine last week officially asked Turkey to close the Dardanelles Strait, and thus access to the Black Sea, to Russian ships.

Nato member Turkey, which has strong ties with Russia and Ukraine, did not immediately respond to the request.

Mr Erdogan on Monday said he considered "Russia's attack on Ukrainian territory as unacceptable" and praised the struggle of the Ukrainian government and people.