Turkey will implement provisions of the Montreux Convention regarding the Regime of Straits and the passage of warships through the Bosporus and the Dardanelles. The implementation will be in a transparent manner as the situation in Ukraine constitutes a “war,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Sunday.
The convention dating back to 1936 gives Turkey control of its straits and authority to regulate the transit of naval warships. Turkey is authorized to close the Straits to all foreign warships in wartime or when it was threatened by aggression.
If other states are at war and Turkey is neutral, the straits are closed for those belligerent countries.
“Under these conditions, we will apply the Montreux agreement. Article 19 is pretty clear. In the beginning, it was a Russian attack and we evaluated it with experts, soldiers, and lawyers. Now it has turned into a war. This is not a military operation; it is officially a state of war,” FM Cavusoglu told private broadcaster CNN Türk on Feb. 27.
In this case, of course, Turkey will “apply the Montreux agreement this way,” he said.
He recalled that the warships of littoral states can return their fleet to their bases through the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits and Turkey cannot prevent this passage.
“Here it is clear whether the [concerned] ship is registered to the base. There should be no abuse. She should not be involved in a war after saying she will go back to the base and passing through the Bosphorus,” the minister stated.
Two days ago, Cavusoglu was saying:
- If Ankara decides it is a war, it can ban vessels, Turkey is not a part of any war.
- “But even if we ban it, Russians have right [of passage]. During negotiations, Russia has had amended that clause. Articles of 19, 20 and 21 are regulating them..”
Note that Russia is one of the signatories of the Montreux Convention [see below].
Regarding allegations that Turkey is not participating in the sanctions against Russia, Cavusoglu said they are not true.
“We have made our statements; they are very clear. We said that we do not accept the attacks of Russia. Turkey’s position is very clear. Our aim is to be in favor of dialogue,” the minister also said, elaborating on Ankara’s decision to abstain in a vote of the Council of Europe which suspended Russia from its rights of representation in the Committee of Ministers and in the Parliamentary Assembly.
The Montreux Convention
Red: Bosporus Straits Yellow: Dardanelles Straits
The Montreux Convention was ratified by Turkey, United Kingdom, France, the USSR, Bulgaria, Greece, Germany, Yugoslavia and Japan.
The Convention Regarding the Regime of the Straits gives Turkey control over the Bosporus and Dardanelles Straits and regulates the transit of naval warships. The Convention guarantees the free passage of civilian vessels in peacetime, and restricts the passage of naval ships not belonging to Black Sea states.
Turkey is authorized to close the Straits to all foreign warships in wartime or when it was threatened by aggression. Also, it is authorised to refuse transit from merchant ships belonging to countries at war with Turkey.
A number of highly-specific restrictions were imposed on what type of warships are allowed passage. Non-Black-Sea powers willing to send a vessel must notify Turkey 15 days prior of their sought passing, while Black Sea states must notify within 8 days of passage. Also, no more than nine foreign warships, with a total aggregate tonnage of 15,000 tons, may pass at any one time. Furthermore, no single ship heavier than 10,000 tonnes can pass. An aggregate tonnage of all non-Black Sea warships in the Black Sea must be no more than 45,000 tons (with no one nation exceeding 30,000 tons at any given time), and they are permitted to stay in the Black Sea for no longer than twenty-one days. Only Black Sea states may transit capital ships of any tonnage, escorted by no more than two destroyers.
Under Article 12, Black Sea states are also allowed to send submarines through the Straits, with prior notice, as long as the vessels have been constructed, purchased or sent for repair outside the Black Sea.
The less restrictive rules applicable to Black Sea states were agreed as, effectively, a concession to the Soviet Union, the only Black Sea state other than Turkey with any significant number of capital ships or submarines.The passage of civil aircraft between the Mediterranean and Black Seas is permitted but only along routes authorized by the Turkish government. More information on the Straits Regime on wikipedia.
PS Given the current situation, the Straits are one bargain card in the hands of Turkey. The point is whether it will really side with the NATO and the Europeans against Russia or in the end it will decided otherwise.
From what I understood, it cannot 100% close the Straits to Russian warships.