ANKARA, Feb 24 (Reuters) – Ukraine has asked Turkey to close the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits to Russian ships, Ukraine’s ambassador to Ankara said on Thursday, after Russia launched airstrikes and earthly against his neighbour.
The request puts NATO member Turkey, which shares a maritime border with Ukraine and Russia in the Black Sea and enjoys good relations with both countries, in a difficult position. Under a 1936 pact, Ankara controls the strait and can limit the passage of warships in times of war or in times of threat.
“We demand the closure of the airspace, the Bosphorus Strait and the Dardanelles. We have conveyed our relevant request to the Turkish side. At the same time, we want sanctions to be imposed on the Russian side,” the official said. Ambassador Vasyl Bodnar at a press conference. in Ankara.
Turkey has opposed sanctions against Russia. President Tayyip Erdogan said Ankara would try to manage the crisis without abandoning its ties with Moscow or Kyiv, but also called Russian moves against Ukraine unacceptable.
While establishing close cooperation with Russia in defense and energy, Ankara has also sold sophisticated drones to Ukraine and signed a deal to co-produce more, angering Moscow.
Turkey opposes Russian policies in Syria and Libya, its 2014 annexation of Crimea and its 2008 recognition of two Georgian regions.
Earlier this month, six Russian warships and a submarine transited the Dardanelles and Bosphorus straits toward the Black Sea for what Moscow called naval exercises near Ukrainian waters.
Turkey on Thursday advised its Ukrainian citizens to stay at home or in a safe place and avoid travel, after airlines canceled flights due to the closure of Ukrainian airspace.
Erdogan also called a summit of senior security officials at 0800 GMT to discuss the Russian offensive, his office said.
(Reporting by Ece Toksabay and Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Dominic Evans and Gareth Jones)