Daily Sabah (Turkey)

US scraps Black Sea deployment of warships

- ISTANBUL / DAILY SABAH WITH AGENCIES

THE U.S. has called off a plan to send two warships to the Black Sea amid tensions between Russia and Ukraine, Turkish diplomatic sources said Wednesday.

The sources noted that the U.S. Embassy had informed Turkish authoritie­s about the matter. Both deployment­s, scheduled for Wednesday and yesterday, have been canceled and Ankara has not been informed of plans to reschedule.

The warships are currently anchored off the island of Crete, the most populous Greek island.

The move came as Russia bulked up its military presence on Ukraine’s eastern border.

Washington is required to give Ankara at least 15 days’ notice before sending warships through the Bosporus and Dardanelle­s straits under the terms of the 1936 Montreux Convention.

The treaty’s terms allow foreign warships to stay in the Black Sea for 21 days.

U.S. Navy ships routinely operate in the region in support of Ukraine, which has been fighting Russian-backed forces in its east since a 2014 revolution ousted the pro-Moscow leader in Kyiv.

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and the two U.S. warships were due to arrive in the Black Sea this week amid an escalation in fighting in eastern Ukraine where government forces have battled Russian-backed troops in a conflict Kyiv says has killed 14,000 people.

The deployment came as the West sounded the alarm over what it says is a big and unexplaine­d build-up of Russian forces close to Ukraine’s eastern border and in Crimea. Russia has said it moves its forces around as it sees fit, including for defensive purposes.

The 1936 Montreux accord gives Turkey control over the Bosporus and Dardanelle­s straits. It also limits access to naval warships and governs foreign cargo ships.

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