Erdogan puts the Montreux Convention up for auction

Turkey joins attempts to cancel international agreements
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7 4 2021
 

103 retired Turkish admirals appealed to the Turkish leader not to cancel the Montreux Convention, which caused a sharp reaction from the Turkish leadership. Recep Erdogan called this act outrageous, pointing out that it is inappropriate to interfere in politics, even for retired military personnel. They were also condemned by the Speaker of the Turkish Parliament Mustafa Şentop, Vice-President Fuat Oktay, head of the Communications Department of the Turkish Presidential Administration Fahrettin Altun, presidential press Secretary İbrahim Kalın and several Turkish ministers. The four signatories were summoned to the Ankara Prosecutor's Office for a conversation.

It may seem that what is happening is a kind of echo of the attempted military coup in Turkey in 2016. In any case, the president of the country and his team react in the style of "it is not for you to interfere with the strategic line of the state and, moreover, to challenge it in any way". It particularly emphasises the indisputable success achieved by the country and especially its army on the way to modernising the state in the new geopolitical conditions. However, if we look at the events carefully, it becomes obvious that in reality we are talking about something completely different.

Turkish naval retirees were not worried about the consequences of the construction of the Istanbul Canal, which on the one hand duplicates the sea route through the Bosphorus and Dardanelles Straits, and on the other – does not fall under the norms of the 1936 Convention on the Regime of the Black Sea Straits.

Turkey has been talking about the need for a new waterway that can dramatically relieve the traditional route that has always been clogged with ships since 2011. The project is remembered every year, especially on the eve of some important political events.

The tender for the approval of the general contractor was to be held: in January 2013, in February 2014, in November 2017, in April 2018, in December 2019 and in March 2020. However, so far things haven't budged.

All that is known, at least approximately, is the estimated estimated cost of the project - to create a channel with a length of 45 km, a width of 250 meters at the bottom and 360 meters at the top - is announced at $10 billion. The construction will take 7 years and will create at least 10,000 jobs. The expected payback period is 2 years, as Turkey will be able to earn from 6 to 8 billion dollars a year on the alternative route between the Black and Mediterranean Seas.

So in reality, the Istanbul channel is nothing more than a simple excuse that allowed the open media to pour out a serious confrontation within the Turkish elites over the future of the country.

It was not only the United States that began to undermine the structure of international agreements that had developed over the post-war period. The resulting power vacuum in the Mediterranean proved to be a serious temptation for the current President of Turkey.

No, formally, Erdogan assures the public that he does not want anything like this and continues to be a staunch supporter of compliance with the Montreux Convention, Turkey does not plan to withdraw from it. However, a small but important caveat followed - for the time being. It was further noted that if such a need arises in the future, "we will not hesitate to review any agreements".

In other words, this means a direct invitation to bid. With the weakening of the international, including military, influence of the United States and leading European countries (primarily France and Britain) in the Mediterranean, the Turks have a chance to get their hands on the status of "main customs on the road". Having taken the right to completely independently set the conditions and prices for passage along the waterway connecting two strategically important seas.

Whether they will be able to fully use it is a separate question, but Ankara has just made it clear to "all interested parties" that the issue of the status of the “straits" is no longer "unchanged". It may be revised. Or not revised, this is "as agreed”.

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