Turkey will continue to abide by the Montreux Convention, Foreign Minister says

Turkey will continue to abide by the Montreux Convention, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Wednesday.

Signed in 1936, Montreux Convention governs the shipping in the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits, linking the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara and the Aegean. It provides free passage to civilian ships during peace time and restricts the passage of naval ships not belonging to Black Sea states.

Recent tensions between Russia and Ukraine have given the Montreux Convention growing significance.  The United Kingdom will deploy warships to the Black Sea in support of Ukraine in May, according to the Times newspaper. The vessels will pass through the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits in line with the convention. 

“We will continue to transparently and impartially implement it as we have done since 1936," Çavuşoğlu said in a webinar organised by international think tanks, Daily Sabah reported.

Public discussion of the Montreux agreement began in Turkey last month after the government withdrew from the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention aimed at preventing violence against women.

Responding to a reporter’s question on whether Turkey could withdraw from other international conventions such as Montreux, Parliamentary Speaker Mustafa Şentop said Erdoğan technically had the authority, but “there is a difference between possible and probable”.

Şentop’s comments spurred talk of a withdrawal, prompting 103 retired admirals from the Turkish navy to issue a declaration, strongly opposing such a move.

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) Canal Istanbul project, a planned manmade waterway through Istanbul to circumvent the Bosporus, has also stirred the discussions on the issue.

"In the last century, the Black Sea was never a sea of military confrontation, not even during World War Two," Çavuşoğlu said, adding this delicate balance had been established by the Montreux accord.

“However, the convention is not itself enough to keep stability, as provocations must be avoided and parties need to work hard to make sure diplomacy and dialogue prevail.”