Marine traffic through Bosporus unaffected by mines: Defense minister
The Turkish army is continuing to stay vigilant against the naval mines in the Black Sea, the defense minister has said, stressing that marine traffic through the Bosporus is not affected by the drifting sea mines and runs as usual.
“We have strong means in the fight against the mines. We have speedily mobilized them. We have raised the alarm status of our mine hunting vessels, maritime patrolling planes, helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles and SAS commandos. We are closely following the developments,” Defense Minister Hulusi Akar told reporters following a cabinet meeting late April 12.
Akar said necessary actions are taken when a mine is spotted in the Black Sea, recalling that the Turkish army has destroyed three naval mines in the past days. There are concerns that hundreds of naval mines are drifting in the Black Sea towards the Bosporus as one of the consequences of the ongoing war in Ukraine.
It is impossible to confirm the speculations about the number of mines and from where they are coming, Akar said, noting, “What we can do is to continue to stay vigilant.”
“The mines are destroyed after they are moved to a secure place and without damaging the environment. There is no problem concerning the sea traffic. It runs in a normal way,” he added.
On a question about the plans to evacuate civilians from Mariupol city of Ukraine, where heavy clashes between Ukrainian and Russian armies have left tens of thousands of people stranded, Akar said Turkey is in constant contact with both sides over the matter.
“We, as Turkey, have taken and continue to take all the measures for the safe evacuation of the people from there, including assigning a ship as well. We are waiting for some positive developments in the coming days,” he stressed.
The situation in Mariupol has worsened, the minister said, recalling that one part of the city is under the control of Ukraine and the other part is under Russia. “At the end of the day, we are exerting efforts for whatever needs to be done in a humanitarian way,” he suggested.
Talks with US over F-16s continue
Akar also responded to questions on the continued talks with the United States on Turkey’s demand to supply 40 new F-16 jet fighters and 80 modernization kits for its existing fleets. “We are in need of Block 70 F-16s, also dubbed Viper. Plus, we need to modernize our F-16s. We have launched a process under the Foreign Arms Sales. The process continues with the U.S. Defense and State Departments,” he stated.
When recalled that the State Department has expressed a positive stance concerning the sales in a letter to the Congress which has to approve the transaction, Akar stressed: “We have to be cautious, although there are some positive aspects cited in the letter. This is a long process, and we hope to accomplish it positively.”
SAMP/T talks after French polls
On the resumption of three-way talks between Turkey, France and Italy for the cooperation in the production of SAMP/T air defense systems, the minister recalled President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s recent meetings with French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi.
“There is a need for other three-way meetings but France is holding elections nowadays. We wish to hold this meeting and conclude the process with a positive result,” he said.
Turkey, France and Italy had started a process for cooperating on the SAMP/T systems by the Eurosam, but strained ties between the parties prevented the process from maturing enough.