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THE IMPORTANCE OF MONTREUX CONVENTION FOR TURKEY

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Writer: Başak Keleş

Montreux Convention, which determines the transit passage rights for vessels regarding the Black Sea, is nowadays became a taboo that the Turkish goverment is acting very sensitive both political and social ends of the Convention.

104 retired admiral have forced to testify to the officials over their declaration on the subject matter, in the previous days.

The former senior navy officers were detained for a statement they have made about Black Sea access. Ankara stated that the comments that were made by the senior officers were evocative of coup attempts made before.

The admirals were concerned, regarding the issue of the applicability of the Convention and Turkish goverment’s commitment to the legal and political bases of the agreement.Admirals stated that Turkey remained neutral in the WW II,in advance to the presence of the Convention.The Montreux Convention has prevented possible devastating conflict between other countries during a fiery period of times.

 The legal authority to exit from international agreements that the president Erdoğan has , in the case of İstanbul Sözleşmesi, has concerned the admirals for a thinkable  possible outcome for the Convention of Montreux, which protects the stability of the straits on the international level since the ratification of the Convention.They stated that the withdrawing from the reason why Montreux Convention came to mind is that the authority to exit from international agreements as a signotary state.

Ankara evaluated this acts as a crime against the constutitional order. Presidental spokesman İbrahim Kalın stated that the declaration made by the admirals has the typical characteristics of a military plot against goverment, and he added that it evoked memories from a failed coup, happened couple of years ago.

Turkish political history was no stranger military coups happened several times and Turkey’s armed forces were a major dominant force before current government.

The critical location of the straits have provoked different nationalities within different courses and influenced political powers on the region since .The straits have formed some kind of “unseen” blockage for Russia, keeping him out of the shores of the Mediterrian, where British have coordinated colonies on the aim of  economical purposes, and vice versa, the straits have also protected the southern region of Russia from British.For both of these countries,Turkey’s support was vital since it is the sole dominant resident on the straits.

The Turkish straits has gained significant importance in history, after Tsarist Russia secured a hold in the shores of the Black Sea in 1774, and the Straits played a key role for the administer the region.

In 1991,The Black Sea and the Straits have regained  more significance, after the dissolution of Soviet Union at that time.There is an increased transportation and trade from the region, and the dense traffic on the shores made Turkey inevitable to the upcoming issues regarding the routes and transits.

The legal process which constitute the core of the Convention has signed in 1936, abstracting military forces around the straits that belonged to the Turkish government.The Convention went into effect on November 9,1936 and still remains in force.

The historical background of the Convention is in closely interrelated with Treaty of Lausanne, the international treaty that had  recognized the boundaries of the newly established modern Turkey back then.

Peace talks regarding the issue of the Turkish straits lasted eight months, and Turkey guaranteed the general control over the both straits, but a committee was established that will regulate special provisions regarding the Black Sea area.The members of the committee was from Black Sea littoral countries and it is codified again in 1936, by the Montreux convention.

The Montreux Convention Regarding the Regime of the Straits, is a legal  agreement which gives Turkey special right to regulate naval transit passages within the straits.The Convention protects the rights of free shipping activities on economical purposes but restricts war ships that will route around the area or anywhere close in some ways.

The geopolitic location the country has gives political and economical responsibilities to the state .The vital importance of the straits is that they connect the Mediterrian to the Black Sea.This causes attention to the area, not just by the littoral countries, but states like USA and UK, for their own economical and political advances.

Since 1936, passage through Turkish straits has been governed accordingly by the Monterux convention, there is a lot of thoughts about the convention is enough to satisfy the current requirements, and if the modifications are necessary, what kind of legal regulation ought to be revised, in order to control the stability in the area?This is a difficult question to answer.

The time when the Montreux Convention was adopted in 1936, the number of vessels which will route through the straits were much more less, and there were no dangerous accidents nor pollution problems on the area, unlike today.Also the tonnage of the vessels were highly small in contrast to the vessels design nowadays.Because of that, Turkish government adopted set of rules for the general safety in 1994, which is called Maritime Traffic Regulations for the Turkish Straits and the Marmara Region in 1994, which caused attention from the audience, about the compatibility of these rules with the Montreux Convention.

On the geographical sense, it is important to acknowledge that the straits have sui generis characteristics, since it forms the boundary between the continents and it is also the only water base connecting the Black Sea and The Mediterrian to the Suez Canal and the Straits of Gibraltar.

This significant importance of the straits have caused distress to the Turkish goverment since it caused a lot of political, economical and social attention, not just by Black Sea littoral countries, but also countries do not have a significant relation to the region, but rather political.

In history, after the Independence War, in 1923, the control on the straits has been supervised by several countries, which restricts the power of the government on the straits by the Lousanne Agreement, but former government has adopted steady attitude regarding the issue and under the regulation of Montreux  Convention it is clearly stated that that the straits are under control of the Turkish government.

These channels are not a part of international waters, but they are water channels which connects important routes for ships, both trade and war.

The straits gained attention during the second World War, while Turkey abstained and followed a path of neutrality, regarding her war policy.

United States and Soviet Union has different demands regarding the usage of straits and Turkey had a hard time to balance the tension between two potent countries who wants to revise the Montreux Convention by different mannerisms.

While ,United States wishes to eliminate Japan as a signotary and the straits to be open to the transit of warships of the Black Sea powers at all times,Soviets insisted that the idea is impossible and it did not conjuct to the ideals of the Union according to the regime of War, at that time.The Kremlin gave hard time to the Turkish authorities regarding the foundation of a Soviet military base, located on the straits for possible attacks that can come from Nazi Germany. This idea not also manipulated the territorial rights of the government on the straights, but it also failed to satisfy the national sovereign rights on the issue.As a reluctant signatory of the Montreux Convention,Russia had always been dissatisfied because of the sole authority that the Turkish government have on the Straits.

Article 19 of the Montreux Convention, which prevents the passage of warships through the straits in the case of war, manipulated the interests of the Soviets for a reasonable time.

In the Convention, provisions that are applicable to the vessels which is categorized as warships is classified determining the ships tonnages, characteristics and usage.

While the Convention laid down reasonable mannerisms regarding the transit of merchant vessels, on the other hand, there are several number of complex provisions on the context, regarding the transit of warships through the straits.

In the time of peace, the restrictions is much more loose and soft regarding the transit, while if there is a possible war, and Turkey is belligerent, the Turkish government has the full authority to decide about the transits of the specified ships . In the scenario where the Turkish goverment feels that there is an imminent danger that will subsequently effect the government’s well-being, it is stated that the government has a right to prevent the transits of the vessels according to the Article 21, of the Montreux Convention.

The Convention can be addressed as a legal and political document, whereas the powers of the Turkish government on the straits were assigned, and the limitations to these powers are accepted as exceptions within the scope of the Convention.

The recent South Ossetia War has caused problems on the Black-Sea region, when US warships tried to enter the Black Sea, in order to provide humanitarian aid to Georgia.The tension between Russia and United States greatly escalated due to the event.The consequences had Turkey left in the lurch, since Russia is a neighbor and major economic partner and on the other hand,US a superpower and ally to Turkish government on many issues regarding politics.

The energy corridor which straits have made on the region makes the Montreux Convention all time agenda for politics, since Black Sea secures the interests of several countries both coastal or non-coastal.

The Convention gives Turkey to close the straits if the government needs there is an imminent danger.These provisions are legal assurance for Turkey and it’s coastal security.On the other hand, due to the complications regarding the warship regimes under the Convention,Turkey faced different hardships since the treaty was established.It can clearly understand that Turkey choosed the way of diplomacy several times, rather than revising the Montreux Convention on the legal base.

The need for more effective regulations regarding the straits have caused the foundation of The Turkish Straits Vessel Traffic Service which began operations on the straits in 2003.

The foundation enhanced the safety of the navigation, and it coordinated emergency teams for unpredictable accidents on the region.The service has also makes risk assessments by using information received from transits, and it also issues warnings to vessels in order to prevent possible risks and danger regarding an unexpected situation.

On the other hand, while the environmental factors has acknowledged on the issue of the straits, it is certain that the Bosphorus has unique ecological features and it is a habitat for different marine species that are under the danger of exctinction. The straits also have valuable historical qualities since Istanbul is a commonplace to reside for both Turkish and international persons.The number of vessels carrying dangerous oils and waste, has been a huge problem for environmental safety and necessary measures should be taken by the officials as soon as possible regarding the protection of the straits in general.

Bu makalede yer alan fikirler yazara aittir ve Case’in editöryel politikasını yansıtmayabilir.
Bu yazı ilk kez 25 Mayıs 2021’de yayımlanmıştır.

Sources

http://sam.gov.tr/pdf/perceptions/Volume-VI/march-may-2001/YucelGuclu.pdf

https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20210404-turkey-slams-admirals-warning-over-bosphorus-treaty

https://calhoun.nps.edu/handle/10945/4858

https://www.britannica.com/event/Montreux-Convention

http://sam.baskent.edu.tr/belge/Montreux_ENG.pdf

https://www.mfa.gov.tr/implementation-of-the-montreux-convention.en.mfa

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montreux_Convention_Regarding_the_Regime_of_the_Straits

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