Former Turkish diplomats warn Montreux Convention must remain in place

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Conversations over the revision of the 1936 Montreux Convention regarding control of the Istanbul Straits ongoing, Turkey recently approved development plans for the controversial 45-kilometre Kanal Istanbul project.

The project has attracted criticism not only for its financial cost and environmental impact but also its potential repercussions for maritime transit.

The artificial seaway will cost an estimated $9.2 billion and will connect the Black Sea north of Istanbul to the Marmara Sea to the south. It is intended to ease traffic on the Bosphorus Strait.

Kanal Istanbul is being acclaimed as an alternative global shipping lane, but the scheme — first introduced to the public as a “crazy project” — has been harshly criticised by Istanbul’s opposition mayor Ekrem Imamoglu beginning.

In a rare move, 126 retired Turkish ambassadors released a statement on Friday warning that the Kanal Istanbul project could put the Montreux Convention at risk and hurt Turkish interests.

“The statement of a group of pensioned military members evoking the period of coups has only made them appear ridiculous and pathetic,” Erdogan’s spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, tweeted.

In an interview with HaberTurk on March 24, Speaker of the Turkish Parliament Mustafa Stop was asked: “What if one day one president says, ‘I do not recognise (the) Montreux (Convention). I dissolved it’?”

SStopreplied: “He has the authority to do so. But there is a difference between possible and probable.”

In a 2018 presidential decree, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan assigned himself athe uthority to withdraw Turkey from any international treaty or pact — such as the Montreux Convention — without parliamentary approval.

The convention grants free passage to all civilian vessels and determines the mode of entry and length of stay, as well as the tonnage,of warships from all non-littoral countries in the Black Sea.

Once completed, Kanal Istanbul will provide a shorter way for naval vessels from non-littoral countries to reach the Black Sea, so long as they pay the necessary fees.

But, if no further abrupt revision is made to the Montreux Convention, these vessels have to respect the rules of Montreux as they will enter Kanal Istanbul from the Dardanelles straits that are still determined by this decades-long international regime

Earlier today, Turkey detained ten retired admirals who signed a statement asserting the importance to Turkish security of the Montreux Convention designed to prevent the militarization of the Black Sea, a state-owned Anadolu news agency reported on Monday.