Naval mines found in Turkish waters may have been left in the Black Sea intentionally to put Turkey in a difficult position, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar has said.
“We have suspicions about whether the mines were left intentionally. Maybe these mines were left as part of a plan to [draw] minesweepers that belong to NATO to enter the Black Sea, to put us in a difficult position,” he reportedly said on April 5 at a ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) central decision and executive board meeting (MKYK).
“We do not know who left the mines. They are Russian-made, but which country left them – this is being examined. There are news that there are around 400 mines. We have spoken with the authorities of Bulgaria and Romania. They are also conducting examination works,” he added.
Akar stressed Turkey would adhere to the rules of the Montreux Convention, which gives Turkey control of its straits and authority to regulate the transit of naval warships, and that Ankara would not let warships to enter the Black Sea.
“We will not let the Black Sea get dragged into war,” he said.
Mines normally lock themselves after they break loose, he said. “But among those defused, we have seen there was no such system. So, could they have intentionally been left like this? We are looking into that,” he said.
The Turkish military defused three floating naval mines in Turkish waters since March 26.
Maritime experts have warned the explosives posed a threat to Istanbul’s Bosphorus Strait.
In mid-March, Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) said 420 naval mines were drifting freely in the Black Sea. While the FSB accuses Ukrainian forces of planting the mines off the Odessa, Ochakov, Chernomorsk and Yuzhnyy ports, Ukraine has dismissed the allegations.
Besides Turkey, Romania also detonated a mine off its coast on March 28.