Black Sea should be away from competition: Defense minister
ISTANBUL- Sedat Ergin
The third countries, particularly the NATO allies, should better not demand to send their warships to the Black Sea during the war between Ukraine and Russia, the Turkish defense minister has said, warning them not to turn the Black Sea into an area of competition.
“We want the balance not to be broken here [in the Black Sea], within the scope of the principle of regional ownership and the domination of the situation by the littoral countries. If the balance deteriorates, the probability of events getting out of control is very high. Let’s not turn the Black Sea into an environment of competition. That’s what we’re saying openly,” Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said on April 25.
Akar reiterated that Turkey calls on the third party countries in a kind way that they should stay away from the region during the war without the need for revoking the Montreux Convention that regulates the passage from the Turkish straits in times of war and peace. Turkey had declared that it started to impose the article 19 of the convention that restricts the passage of the warships of the warring sides, Ukraine and Russia, from the Turkish straits.
Turkey is a member of NATO and actively trying to mediate between Moscow and Kiev for a truce. It has not joined the European Union and the United States sanctions on Russia.
The continuation of the war may create sensitivities in case the NATO warships would enter the Black Sea, Akar said, recalling the importance attached by Turkey to the stability of the region.
“We have some suggestions for maintaining the stability of the Black Sea: Do not get excited, do not get panicked. It may cause panic on the other side, as well. Misinformation can lead to misunderstanding. Let’s respect Ukraine’s borders and sovereignty, but on the other hand let’s not do anything that can be perceived as provocation on the other side,” Akar said.
Turkey urges restrains to Bulgaria, Ukraine
On a question about a proposal by U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin for the establishment of a NATO patrol mission against Russian activities in the Black Sea in line with the expectations of Romania and Bulgaria, Akar implied that Turkey was not in favor of such initiative, saying, “We tell Bulgaria and Romania to act with restraint.”
Turkey has long been in an effort to keep the Black Sea out of the influence of the NATO in order not to complicate the situation between the alliance and Russia. On a question whether there is currently any NATO warship in the Black Sea, Akar replied “No.”
‘We tell US: PKK equal to YPG’
On the relations with the U.S., Akar cited the continued support to the YPG by Washington in the fight against ISIL in the northeastern Syria as the most important bilateral problem.
“The most important problem between Turkey and the U.S. is the latter’s rejection of admitting that the YPG is a terrorist organization. We say, ‘The PKK is equal to the YPG.’ Arguing that the YPG is different from the PKK is messing with our head. Tons of assistance were delivered to these terrorists, and this does not comply with the spirit of alliance.”