Turkey To implement Montreux Convention Due To Ukraine war
Recognising the Russian invasion of Ukrainian as a ‘’war’’, Turkey is set to implement an international convention so called the Montreux Convention on naval passage through two of its strategic straits (the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits), which would allow them to limit the movement of Russian warships between the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea. The decision comes three days after Kyiv had asked Ankara to close the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits to Russian ships.
The Bosporus and Dardanelles straits, also known as the Turkish Straits or the Black Sea Straits, connect the Aegean Sea and the Black Sea via the Sea of Marmara. It is the only passage through which the Black Sea ports can access the Mediterranean and beyond. Over three million barrels of oil, about three per cent of the daily global supply, mostly produced in Russia, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan, pass through this waterway every day. The route also ships large amounts of iron, steel, and agricultural products from the Black Sea coast to Europe and the rest of the world.
This Montreux Convention, which came into effect in July 1936, put to rest the question of who would control these two strategic straits. During peace time, the agreement guarantees freedom of passage for civilian vessels, including trade vessels, but battleships face certain restrictions. In the event of a war, the pact gives Ankara the right to regulate the transit of naval warships and to block the straits to warships belonging to the countries involved in the conflict. Some researchers believe that the Convention has been a major driving force in Moscow’s repeated demands that it be given greater control of the straits, dating as far back as the 1930s during Stalin’s Soviet Union.
Article 19 of the treaty contains an exception for the countries on the Black Sea that can effectively undermine Turkey’s power in blocking the Russian warships entering or exiting the Black Sea: “Vessels of war belonging to belligerent powers, whether they are Black Sea Powers or not, which have become separated from their bases, may return thereto,” it says. That means warships can return to their original bases through the passage and Turkey cannot prevent it. The official assignment of a ship to a port determines whether it has the right to pass through the Straits or not. The official assignment, according to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) falls under the authority of the state that owns the ships. Therefore, another possible way for Russia to exploit the Montreux Convention, would be to reassign some of its vessels to the Black Sea. Because Russia’s only warm-water naval ports are on the Black Sea, in order to effectively project naval power the Russians must not only exert control of the sea, but also have unrestricted access to the Dardanelles and Bosphorus Straits.
Closing the Straits might never have a military impact in the Russo-Ukrainian War. But it is Turkey’s unique way of punishing Russia for its crime of aggression and showing commitment to international law. In the current situation, the Turkish government finds itself in a difficult position, as both Ukraine and Russia are important partners in critical energy and military trade agreements. Turkey, a NATO member since 1952, wants to strengthen its ties with the West while not upsetting Russia. Its control over these key straits may test its balancing act.
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