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NATO's former commander urged Türkiye to allow British minehunters for Ukraine

NATO's former commander urged Türkiye to allow British minehunters for Ukraine Minehunter Sandown (MCMV) of the Royal Navy of the United Kingdom (photo: Wikimedia)

Türkiye's decision to halt the transfer of two British military ships to Ukraine contradicts its commitments to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Ankara should take a tougher stance against the Russian Federation, states former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO in Europe, James Stavridis.

Retired US Admiral deemed Türkiye's decision to deny passage through its straits to two British Royal Navy Sandown-class ships as unfortunate. The vessels were given to Kyiv to assist in demining operations in the Black Sea.

According to Stavridis, Türkiye certainly could have decided to permit the passage of defensive ships like minehunters into the Black Sea because there is sufficient freedom of action under the Montreux Convention, and minehunters have a purely defensive nature.

"This is a clear NATO position, which Türkiye agreed to as part of its role in NATO," the admiral noted.

Analyzing Türkiye's relations with Russia and the West, Stavridis noted that Ankara tries too hard to achieve a balance and should fully rely on its role as a NATO member.

"Russia is a dangerous aggressor state and a serial violator of human rights that threatens the Alliance daily in the air, at sea, on land, in cyberspace, and space. It's not a difficult choice," he said.

Former Turkish Navy Commander Admiral Cem Gurdeniz has already responded to the criticism from his American counterpart. He pointed out that Ankara wants to avoid spilling Turkish blood in the context of a war in the Black Sea on behalf of the US and NATO.

British minehunters for Ukraine

At the beginning of December, the UK Ministry of Defence confirmed the transfer of two mine-hunting trawlers of the Sandown class (MCMV) to Ukraine from the Royal Navy.

However, in early January, Türkiye refused to allow the passage of the ships through its Bosporus and Dardanelles straits until the end of Ukraine's war with Russia. Ankara referred to Article 19 of the Montreux Convention on the regime of straits, which prohibits the passage of warships from conflicting parties.

The Ukrainian Navy did not perceive Ankara's decision as a betrayal and emphasized that they did not submit a request to Ankara for the passage of the British minehunters, considering the provisions of the Montreux Convention.