Kerch Strait must remain open, says Turkish Foreign Ministry

Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has called for the Kerch Strait connecting the Azal Sea to the Black Sea to be kept open after a clash between Ukraine and Russia on Sunday.

Ukraine’s parliament voted to impose 30 days of martial law on Monday, the day after Russian forces captured three Ukrainian navy vessels.

Russian forces opened fire on the vessels as they sailed near the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014, wounding several sailors. Russian special forces then stormed and seized the vessels.

Russia said the ships had sailed through its maritime territory, though Ukraine denies this. The clash was the first open conflict between the countries in recent years, though Ukrainian forces have been fighting separatist forces backed by Russia in east Ukraine since 2014.

The Kerch Strait runs between Russian territory and the Crimean Peninsula, and the Azal Sea is surrounded by Ukrainian and Russian coastlines.

“As a country sharing a Black Sea coast, we underline that passage through Kerch Strait should not be blocked,” Reuters quoted Turkey’s foreign ministry as saying in a statement.

The Turkish ministry also called on both sides to avoid steps “that could endanger stability and peace in the region.”