BIRN Fact-Check: Can Turkey Close Straits to Russia?

"It is not a couple of air strikes now, the situation in Ukraine is officially a war … We will implement the Montreux Convention," Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Sunday, having finally recognised Russia's military "actions" in Ukraine as a war.

However, he did not specify that Turkey would close the Turkish Straits to Russian vessels, nor has Russia received any official notice from Turkey about a ban on Russian ships.

Experts say Turkey is following a careful strategy over the Straits, so as not to open up a discussion in future about its authority over them.

"The position that Turkey takes will create criteria about the future of the Straits. No to open this discussion, Turkey says that it will follow the articles of the Montreux Convention very carefully and objectively," Hasan Selim Ozertem, a security expert based in Ankara, told BIRN.

Ozertem added that Turkey is also trying to maintain its sensitive balancing strategy between the West and Russia. "Relations with the West are no less important than Turkey's relations with Russia," he noted.

Strictly regulated waterway A tanker ship passes through Bosporus, Istanbul. Photo: Pixabay/Murat Soyluoglu

According to articles 19, 20 and 21 of the Convention, in time of war, or if Turkey consider itself threatened with an imminent danger, Turkey can close the Straits.

However, article 12 says the Black Sea powers, including Russia, shall still have the right to send ships through the Straits for the purpose of re-joining their bases.

Turkey also may choose to close the Straits for any ships using its authority stated in other articles.

"Russia has an advantage. It is a Black Sea country and can send its ships through Straits...

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