Turkey says mines in Black Sea may have been left deliberately
Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said mines found floating in the Black Sea may have been left there deliberately to put pressure on Turkey and its implementation of the Montreux Convention.
“Maybe these mines were left as part of a plan for NATO minesweepers to enter the Black Sea,” Akar told a meeting of the executive board of the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP), Hürriyet Daily reported on Sunday, citing unidentified sources.
Ankara is determined to comply with the requirements of the treaty, Akar said. “We will not let warships into the Black Sea. We will not allow the Black Sea to be drawn into the war.”
The Turkish military has deactivated three naval mines in the sea since March 26, according to the Defence Ministry. On March 21, Russia said several mines had drifted out to sea after breaking off from cables near Ukrainian ports. Ukraine dismissed the allegations as disinformation and an attempt to close off parts of the sea.
“We do not know who left the mines,” Akar said, adding that there were around 400 of them, according to reports.
“They are Russian-made, but the issue of which country left them is under investigation,” he said.
Akar said Turkey got into contact with the Bulgarian and the Romanian authorities over the mines and they were also monitoring the situation.
The mines normally lock themselves when they break from their moorings, but such a system did not exist in the ones that the military destroyed, Akar said.
“So, it could have been left like that on purpose. We are investigating.”
Turkey has barred the passage of warships through the Bosporus straits linking the Aegean Sea to the Black Sea, implementing articles of the Montreux Convention of 1936. It has declared the war in Ukraine as a “state of war”, meaning only the warships of countries bordering the Black Sea may pass, if they are returning to their bases.