Having made its way down from the Black Sea, and through the Bosphorus strait and the Marmara Sea, the Caeser Kunikov entered the Dardanelles Strait at around 8:50 a.m. local time (GMT 5:50 a.m.) on Sunday. Turkish press sources have stated that the ship’s final destination will be Syria’s Tartus port, where Russia operates a naval supply and maintenance base.
With Russia continuing air raids in Syria, in support of the regime of Bashar al-Assad, observers have noted the heavy Russian Navy traffic through Istanbul’s Bosphorus strait, which connects the Black Sea with the Mediterranean. Close to 70 Russian Navy ships have crossed through the Turkish Straits in 2015, according to a maritime news site.
Although Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has criticized Russia’s involvement in Syria, Turkey nonetheless has no authority to prevent ships from passing through the straits, per international agreements.
The Turkish Straits are a key access route for Russia, which has been limited in its options for sending military resources to Syria. In early September, NATO member Bulgaria denied the use of its airspace to Syria-bound Russian planes.
The commencement of Russian air raids in Syria has marked a significant shift in the dynamics surrounding the prolonged war. The United States has cautioned that the Kremlin’s involvement is more focused on supporting the Assad regime than on fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). “They’ve made a significant military investment now in further propping him [Assad] up,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.
The Russian air strikes began after Russian President Vladimir Putin met with U.S. President Barack Obama at the United Nations, the two leaders agreeing that their armed forces should keep communications open and avoid coming into conflict in Syria.
A U.S. defense official confirmed that talks between the United States and Russian militaries could take place within a day, possibly via secure video-conference or in person. The Pentagon aims to involve both civilian and uniformed defense officials in the talks.
Oct 4, 2015 | BGNNews.com | Istanbul