Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has said Turkey has no intention of joining any sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, local media reported on Wednesday.
“We haven’t participated in such sanctions on principle in the past. We have no intention of joining in these sanctions, either,” the minister told Habertürk TV late Tuesday.
Russia’s war on Ukraine has been met with outrage from the international community since it began last Thursday, with the European Union, the United Kingdom and the United States implementing a range of economic sanctions on Russia.
Çavuşoğlu also said Russia had agreed when Turkey asked it to withdraw its request for warships not registered in its Black Sea fleet to pass through the straits.
The Bosporus and Dardanelles straits connect the Mediterranean and Black seas, the latter from which Russia launched an incursion on Ukraine’s southern coast.
Under the 1936 Montreux Convention, Turkey has control over the Dardanelles and Bosporus straits and can limit the passage of warships during wartime or if threatened.
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 through its straits.
On Monday Ankara said it would be restricting all warships from transiting the Bosporus into or out of the Black Sea after a request was made by Ukraine’s President Volodomyr Zelensky to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan over the weekend.
“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 said, adding that they have to say when something is wrong and that Russia’s attack on Ukraine is a violation of international laws.
“There is no contradiction in Turkey’s attitude here,” Çavuşoğlu said, explaining that Ankara abstained from voting on Russia’s suspension from the Council of Europe on Feb. 25 because it calls for dialogue under any circumstances.
Although Turkey has been critical of Western diplomacy and sanctions, Turkish diplomats have been in touch with their Western counterparts throughout the crisis.
İbrahim Kalın, Erdoğan’s chief foreign policy advisor, spoke over the phone on Monday with Biden national security advisor Jake Sullivan about the war and reiterated Turkish support for Ukraine. According to Erdoğan’s office, Kalın and Sullivan agreed to “intensify efforts towards a ceasefire.”
At least 136 civilians, including 13 children, have been killed and 400 others, including 26 children, have been injured in Ukraine, according to United Nations figures. Around 660,000 people have fled Ukraine to neighboring countries, the international body said on Tuesday.