ANKARA (AFP) — Washington has made no formal request from Ankara to allow two US hospital ships to sail through the Turkish Straits to Georgia, a US diplomat said Saturday, following reports that Turkey was dragging its feet on making a decision.
"The United States is considering a lot of actions" to help Georgia amid its conflict with Russia over South Ossetia, the spokeswoman of the US embassy in Ankara, Kathy Schallow, told AFP.
"But as far as I know, we have not made a formal decision about sending those two ships," she said, adding that "a formal request" for their passage to the Black Sea via the Dardanelles and Bosphorus straits was not made either.
The Turkish foreign ministry said Ankara was cooperating with countries sending assistance to Georgia and "no request with the purpose of humanitarian aid or repatriation has been denied so far."
Without a reference to the US ships, the statement said the transportation of assistance by sea was regulated under the terms of the 1936 Montreux Convention, which governs international traffic through the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits.
Turkey's NTV news channel reported that the two ships' tonnage exceeded the limits set by the convention.
General James Cartwright, vice chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Friday that Washington's plans called for sending two US Navy hospital ships to Georgia, among other assistance.
Unnamed US officials told McClatchy Newspapers that the two hospital ships likely to go -- the Comfort and the Mercy -- would take weeks to arrive and complained that Turkey was "sluggish and unresponsive" in granting them a permission to sail through the straits to the Black Sea.
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