NATO state issues warning to fellow members — Analysis
Turkey is seeking to maintain “balance” in the region amid the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the country’s defense minister has said
Ankara is striving to maintain “balance” in the Black Sea, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar has said, warning its NATO allies against ramping up tension in the region. This was in an interview that Hulusi Akar gave to the Hurriyet newspaper Monday.
“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,”Akar said.
A declining balance can lead to events spiraling out of control. Let’s not turn the Black Sea into an environment of competition. That’s what we’re saying openly.
Akar reiterated Ankara’s stance on the passage of warships through the Black Sea straits, insisting it will stick to the Montreux Convention, which allows Turkey to regulate maritime traffic through the straits during times of war. Ankara immediately closed routes to Russian and Ukrainian military ships shortly after fighting broke out between the two nations late February.
As the US-led NATO alliance supports Ukraine in the ongoing conflict, Ankara urges its military vessels to steer clear of the Black Sea as well until the hostilities are over, Akar noted, urging the country’s allies not to try Turkey’s resolve to enforce the Convention.
“We recommend not to come as long as the war continues, we graciously suggest… We say this without the need for the Montreux Convention,” Akar said.
Washington’s proposal to establish a NATO taskforce for the region last year was also rejected by the official. He stated that while the idea for a naval force was supported by Romania, Bulgaria and other Black Sea members of NATO, Ankara opposed the move.
“We tell Bulgaria and Romania to act with restraint,”Akar added, “ “stability”The Black Sea cannot be preserved if the parties to the conflict refrain from provoking each other.
“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,”He stressed. “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.”
Turkey is trying to keep a neutral position during the conflict and has sought to be a mediator. Turkey hosted the high-profile Russia/Ukraine negotiations in Istanbul at the end of March. Although both sides indicated some progress in the negotiations, they failed to deliver any tangible results. The hostilities continue.
Russia attacked its neighbor following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. Minsk Protocols between France and Germany were created to grant the separatist regions special status in Ukraine.
Since then, the Kremlin demanded Ukraine declare itself neutral and vow to never join NATO’s military bloc. Kiev claims that the Russian invasion was unprovoked. It also denies any plans to take the republics with force.