Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Sunday that Turkey had decided that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was a “war.”
Is this a conflict or a war? We decided it. Article 19 of the Montreux Convention is very clear. This is war.” He said in a live interview with CNN Turk.
Turkey’s recognition is important to the application of 1936 Montreux Convention Which regulates maritime traffic through the Turkish Straits.
The Montreux Convention gives Turkey certain control over the passage of warships from the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus that connect the Aegean, Marmara, and Black Seas.
In times of peace, warships can cross the straits by prior diplomatic notification with certain restrictions on the weight of the ships and the weapons they carry depending on the ship if it belongs to a Black Sea country or not.
In wartime, when Turkey is not at war, warships can use the straits except for those of the warring nations.
According to the agreement, if Turkey is a party to the war or considers itself threatened by the imminent threat of war, it can close the strait to the passage of warships that have a coast on the Black Sea or not.
However, as Cavusoglu mentioned, Article 19 of the Montreux Convention provides for an exception. The warships of the warring nations could return to their original base in the Black Sea.
“Now this conflict has turned into a war, in this case, this is how we apply Montreux to the parties, Russia or Ukraine. Article 19 makes an exception. If a state’s warship returns to its port, an exception will be made. We will implement all the provisions of Montreux with transparency.”
This means that even if Turkey bans, Russian and Ukrainian ships can return to their home base. Cavusoglu said that when applying the exception, countries should abuse the provision. “I explain the position of Montreux and Turkey,” he added.
More background: The Montreux Convention, signed in 1936, gives Turkey control over the passage of ships through these two major straits. In peacetime, civilian ships can pass freely, although there are certain restrictions on the passage of ships that do not belong to the Black Sea countries.
The Black Sea countries – which, besides Turkey, Russia and Ukraine – also include Bulgaria, Georgia, and Romania.
Warships can sail through the straits during peacetime, but under conditions that restrict the total tonnage depending on whether or not it is a Black Sea country, and limit the length of stay in the Black Sea for non-Black Sea states. There are also restrictions on the caliber of weapons they can carry, and Turkey must be notified of the request.
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