Turkey on Sunday accused Ukraine, without naming it, of trying to exert pressure on Ankara to make it abandon the Montreux Convention and allow NATO warships to enter the Black Sea.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said he doesn’t rule out that drifting mines appeared in the Black Sea with an intent to exert pressure on Ankara to make it allow the passage of NATO warships via the Bosphorus .
"We suspect that mines appeared there intentionally. Probably, they were released as part of a plan aiming at exerting pressure on us to let NATO’s mine sweepers into the Black Sea via the straits," the Minister said.
But he added that Ankara is committed to the rules of the Montreux Convention and will not allow warships to enter the Black Sea, nor will it let the Black Sea be dragged into the war between Russia and Ukraine.
Akar said the Turkish side is probing the issue, noting that media reports say there are some 400 such mines.
"We don’t know who placed them. We know that they were made in Russia but we are probing into which country placed them," he said.
Turkey already held meetings with Bulgarian and Romanian authorities to discuss the matter.
Observers said Akar’s statement about the country that placed the mines is an indirect hint at Ukraine, which seeks NATO support to face Russia’s aggression.
Last month, Russia said the mines placed by the Ukrainian side at the approaches to the Black Sea ports might be drifting toward the Bosphorus after breaking off from cables near Ukrainian ports.
The claim was dismissed by Kyiv as disinformation and an attempt to close off parts of the sea.
Three drifting mines were spotted and destroyed off Turkey’s coast in late March and early April.
Last week, Akar held a video conference with his counterparts in Bulgaria, Georgia, Poland, Romania and Ukraine to discuss the war in Ukraine, mines floating in the sea and regional security.
“Aside from the mines, the importance of cooperation in the Black Sea for peace, calm and stability was emphasized,” Akar said after the meeting,
In February, Ankara announced it will implement the international convention that allows Turkey to shut down the straits at the entrance of the Black Sea to the warships of “belligerent countries.”
The 1936 Montreux Convention gives Turkey the right to bar warships from using the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus during wartime.
Last week, Spokesman for the UN Secretary-General, Stephane Dujarric, told the Turkish Anatolia news agency, that the UN monitors with great concern any kind of mines in international waters, especially with regard to their impact on international transport and on food exports.