Turkey has no intention of joining international sanctions against Russia over its war with Ukraine, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said late Tuesday.
"As a principle, we didn't participate in such sanctions in a general sense. We have no intention of joining in these sanctions, either," he said on Turkish TV news channel Haberturk.
Since Russia's war on Ukraine began last Thursday, it has been met by outrage from the international community, with the European Union, the United Kingdom and the United States implementing a range of economic sanctions on Russia. Many Western countries are also supplying Ukraine with weapons, have shut their airspace for Russian airlines, and banned or restricted Russian state-run media.
Touching on the Montreux Convention, a 1936 accord on the governing of the Turkish Straits, Çavuşoğlu said Ankara had sent official notifications about its position on the matter to the countries involved in the war and clarified issues with regards to the implementation of the Montreux Convention.
He added that Russia had accepted when Turkey asked Russia to withdraw its request for warships not registered in its Black Sea fleet to pass through the Straits.
"Russia has said four of its ships would cross the straits on Feb 27-28, three of which are not registered to bases in the Black Sea," Çavuşoğlu said. "We told Russia not to send these ships and Russia said the vessels would not cross the straits."
"Nobody should be offended by this, because the Montreux Convention is valid today, yesterday and tomorrow, so we will implement it," he said.
Reuters reported earlier this week that at least four Russian ships - two destroyers, a frigate, and an intelligence vessel - were waiting on Turkey's decision to cross from the Mediterranean. Two of them, a frigate and a destroyer, had asked to make the journey this week.
With the Russia-Ukraine war in its sixth day, the provisions of the 1936 pact -- which controls access to the Black Sea, including coastal countries like Ukraine -- has come into the international spotlight. Çavuşoğlu mentioned in particular that Articles 19 of the convention would be implemented. The convention gives Turkey the authority to ban warships from the straits during times of war. Russian warships returning to their home port are exempt from the restrictions, according to the articles of the convention.
The United States "expressed appreciation" for Turkey's move to close the straits. Ukraine's ambassador to Ankara said Kyiv was "grateful" to Turkey for "meticulously" implementing the pact.
"We don't have to take sides in war; on the contrary, we are a country that can establish an equal dialogue with both sides to end it. We can't afford to take sides," Çavuşoğlu also said.
Turkey is calling on all sides in the Ukraine crisis to respect the international pact on passage through the Turkish straits to the Black Sea, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said earlier in the day after Ankara closed access.
"Eroding Montreux or disrupting the status quo in any way is to nobody's benefit. We see a benefit in preserving Montreux. We tell all sides that it would be beneficial to abide by Montreux," Akar told reporters, his ministry said.
NATO ally Turkey borders Ukraine and Russia in the Black Sea and has good ties with both. On Monday, Ankara said it had closed its Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits under the 1936 pact, allowing it to curb some Russian vessels crossing. Turkey had demanded all Black Sea and non-Black Sea states to halt passage through its straits.
While calling Russia's invasion an unacceptable violation of international law, Turkey has carefully formulated its rhetoric not to offend Moscow, with which it has close energy, defense and tourism ties. It has called for dialogue and offered to host peace talks.
Also, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Monday said Turkey would use the authority given by the 1936 Montreux Convention pact on passage from its straits to prevent escalation of the Russia and Ukraine war.
Erdoğan added that Turkey could not abandon its ties with Ukraine and Russia but stressed he was “very saddened” by Moscow’s aggression on its southern neighbor.
“Turkey is determined to use the authority given by the Montreux Convention on Turkish Straits in a manner to prevent escalation of the Russia-Ukraine crisis,” Erdoğan said in a press conference after a Cabinet meeting in the capital Ankara.
Turkey on Sunday called Russia’s invasion a “war,” allowing it to invoke articles under the pact that could limit the passage of some Russian vessels from its straits.
At least 136 civilians, including 13 children, have been killed and 400 others, including 26 children, injured in Ukraine, according to United Nations figures. Around 660,000 people have fled Ukraine to neighboring countries, the international body said Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Germany has welcomed Turkey's move to enact the provisions of the Montreux Convention, limiting the passage of warships into the Black Sea in response to the Russia-Ukraine war.
"Germany appreciates Turkey's crucial role, especially at this difficult time, as the guardian of the Montreux Convention which regulates the passage through the Bosphorus and Dardanelles Strait, also in time of war," the German Foreign Ministry said on Twitter late Tuesday.
"Thank you for ensuring its continued application," the ministry said.