A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman yesterday charged that Turkish plans to inspect Russian merchant ships for air defense missiles bound for Cyprus would violate the 1936 Montreux Convention. Gennady Tarasov said that the convention provided for the free passage of merchant vessels through the straits connecting the Black Sea and the Mediterranean.
Last week, Turkish coast guard officials searched and then released an Egyptian ship passing through the Bosporus. While Turkish media indicated at the time that the search had been in vain, Turkish deputy prime minister Bulent Ecevit revealed on September 2 that missile parts had indeed been found on the ship but that documents showed them to be destined for Egypt and not Cyprus. Yesterday Turkish authorities boarded a Cypriot ship that they thought might be carrying parts for the S-300 missile systems Russia has agreed to sell to Cyprus. The "sanitary inspection" revealed that the ship was carrying iron from Ukraine to Egypt.
The Turks also announced that Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Tuygan would fly to Moscow next week to discuss the missile sale. The Russians have insisted that the sale of these defensive weapons is not destabilizing while the Turks have said they would use all means available to them to prevent their deployment. The recent ship inspections show that Ankara is ready to bend international law to this end. (Western media, August 28; September 4)
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