Turkey is not a party in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, while it supports Ukraine’s territorial integrity and opposes a possible annexation of the eastern European country, Turkish foreign minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told the Turkish daily Hürriyet on Friday.
“We are against an annexation, or a war, or recognition,” Çavuşoğlu said. “We are not a country to enter any kind of conflict. We will continue our balanced principled stance in favour of fairness and international law.”
“We will do whatever we can for this military operation to end at once,” the minister added. “Ukraine defines this as an invasion. But where will Russia stop?”
Russia has made ‘strategic hits’ to date, striking mostly military targets, air fields and bases, Çavuşoğlu said. “There was an attack on the Kyiv airport, and there are areas where Russia entered by land to the Kherson region near Crimea. Ukraine defines this as a military operation to invade all of Ukraine.”
Ukraine has already made public that it will ask Turkey to close the Bosporus and Dardenelles straits to Russian battleships in case of an escalation to all-out war.
Asked whether or not it is possible within the legal framework of the 1936 Montreux Convention that the straits are closed to Russian battleships, as demanded by Ukraine’s ambassador to Ankara, Çavuşoğlu replied:
“Ukraine made its demand officially. The articles of the Montreux Convention are very clear, and Turkey has always acted in accordance with these articles in all cases. This means, Turkey has the right to take measures in a war, which it’s not a part of, concerning foreign states that are parts of that war. Turkey can prevent the passage of warships through the straits. But there’s also an article in the Montreux Convention which says that in case a state that is a war party makes a demand for the return of its warships to their bases, it has got to be permitted. Our experts are now working to assess whether there is a warfare concerned. If we legally confirm that it is a warfare, a due process will begin. Secondly, we will restrict passage of warships in the context of the Montreux Convention in case we accept that there is a warfare. But even if we do, the Russians have the right that I’ve just mentioned. They’d had articles included in the convention when it was scripted. The articles 19, 20 and 21 regulate this. It says at the end that if a littoral state demands passage for its battleship to return to base, it is to be allowed.”
As for the sanctions most recently imposed on Russia by the United States and the European Union, Çavuşoğlu said:
“Most of the sanctions are against individuals. There are economic and finance-related sanctions in particular.”
Turkey would be affected by sanctions on Russia, as would Europe, the minister added.
“All sanctions affect everybody, that is for sure. Sometimes they pose opportunities for countries too, but we have long said that sanctions, by principle, do not solve issues.”
Asked how much Turkey is likely to be affected, Çavuşoğlu said:
“Will they include natural gas and oil? For sure that would affect Europe as well as us. The tourism industry will also be definitely affected. Depends on how long the process will last.”