Montreux lobby opposes Erdoğan’s Istanbul canal project - Turkish daily

Turkish opposition has been trying to prevent the economic and political potential of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Kanal Istanbul project over baseless environmental claims, Turkish daily Yeni Şafak said on Saturday.

The daily said the lobby included main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the supporters of 2013 Gezi protests, the largest wave of anti-government protests that took place since the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2002.

Yeni Şafak dubbed the group the “Montreux lobby”, referring to the Montreux Convention of 1936 which gives Turkey control over the Bosporus Strait and the Dardanelles and regulates the transit of naval warships. 

Ekrem İmamoğlu, the mayor of Istanbul from the CHP, opposes Erdoğan’s artificial waterway project, a 45-kilometre canal on the European side of the city to be built to link the Marmara Sea and the Black Sea.

The Turkish government says the canal will reduce marine traffic through the Bosporus, one of the busiest waterways in the world.

While supporters maintain the canal will transform Istanbul into a major transport hub, linking up with the city’s third airport, a new bridge and a motorway that opened in 2016, environmentalists and urban planners argue it will be destructive and say that transport infrastructure for the project is already breaking up farm land.

Mevlüt Tatlıyer, an academic at Medipol University, told Yeni Şafak that the new waterway might allow Turkey to bypass the Montreux Convention which limits Turkey’s rights over commercial traffic in the Bosporus Strait.

“We can neither control vessels traversing the straits nor raise income from them,” Tatlıyer said. “The canal will not only allow imposing fees on ships passing it, it will also revive Istanbul’s economy,” he said referring to the artificial waterway project.