Russia has warned Turkey and the US, claiming that American ships have, several times, stayed in the Black Sea beyond the terms of the Montreux Convention, which regulates the transit of naval warships.
“We have noted the fact that US ships have, several times, stayed in the Black Sea beyond the terms of the Montreux Convention,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday. “We brought this to the attention of the US and Turkey. All Convention terms should be strictly observed."
The Montreux Convention gives Turkey control over the Bosporus and the Dardanelles and regulates the transit of naval warships.
“[US] Navy units continue to conduct routine operations and exercises with allies and partners in the region,” a US embassy spokesman in Ankara, who asked not to be named, told Today's Zaman on Thursday, without elaborating on the issue.
A US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Truxtun entered the Black Sea on March 6-7 in what the US said was part of a "routine" deployment. State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf said on Wednesday the USS Truxtun has left and that another ship is being sent to the region.
"We've extended the deployment of the USS Truxtun in the Black Sea, and now that it has departed, another naval vessel is on its way to the Black Sea," she said.
“There exists the Montreux Convention, which gives extremely clear criteria limiting the deployment of warships not belonging to the Black Sea governments in regard to tonnage and length of stay," Lavrov said during a joint press conference with Kazakh Foreign Minister Erlan Idrisov in Moscow, according to a Russian news agency.
"We have noticed that US warships have extended their deployment beyond the set terms a couple of times lately, and at times they did not always comply with the regulations that are set within the Montreux Convention," he added.
The Montreux Convention specifies that warships from states without a Black Sea coast can remain in the Black Sea for 21 days at most. For a ship to be eligible to pass the straits, it cannot weigh more than 45,000 tons.
Turkish Foreign Ministry officials did not respond to questions by Today's Zaman on the Russian foreign minister's remarks by the time Today's Zaman went to print on Thursday.
Russian troops have effectively occupied Ukraine's Crimea region, sparking what many have called the most serious confrontation between Russia and the West since the end of the Cold War. In an effort to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis, NATO foreign ministers from the 28 alliance members, including Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, met in Brussels earlier this week.
"Unfortunately, I cannot confirm that Russia is withdrawing its troops. This is not what we are seeing," Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters on Tuesday.
Turkey, a NATO member, has called for a diplomatic solution to the crisis and has insisted that the territorial integrity of Ukraine be protected.
Last month, European Union Affairs Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Turkey has always upheld the Montreux Convention. “This agreement has never been violated. This is our principle,” he said, when receiving Ukraine's ambassador to Turkey, Sergey Korsunsky, earlier in March.