Turkey 'warned' Russia after Black Sea ship attack: Ankara

Turkey 'warned' Russia after Black Sea ship attack: Ankara
Turkey issued a warning to Russia after the Russian navy stopped and boarded the Sukru Okan vessel.
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The Sukru Okan vessel was fired on by the Russian navy last Sunday. [Getty]

Turkey warned Moscow to avoid further escalations after a Turkish-owned cargo vessel was attacked by the Russian navy last weekend, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's office said Thursday.

"After the (Russian) intervention, our interlocutors in the Russian Federation were warned appropriately to avoid such attempts, which escalate tensions in the Black Sea," the Turkish presidency said, breaking a days-long silence over the incident.

The Sukru Okan vessel was flying the flag of Palau when it was fired on by the Russian navy last Sunday.

Russian military personnel then boarded the ship to conduct an inspection, before letting it sail on toward the Ukrainian port of Izmail -- the main export route for Ukrainian agricultural products.

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The incident came during a spike in Black Sea region attacks that followed Russia's decision to withdraw from a landmark Ukrainian grain deal last month.

Turkey helped broker the UN-backed agreement, using its good relations with both Moscow and Kyiv to help strike the only major deal reached by the sides during the war.

But Erdogan's office came under criticism at home for saying nothing about the Russian attack.

Erdogan's office pushed back against its critics on Thursday, arguing that it was technically up to Palau to respond to the incident.

"Even if the owner of the Sukru Okan vessel is Turkish, the ship is not Turkish flagged," it said.

"In international law, it is the 'flag state' that is more important than the name of the ship or the personality of its personal."

Palau is a Pacific archipelago whose flag is often used by shipping companies to freely access international ports.

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