With the construction of the Constantinople Canal, Turkey is said to be seeking to circumvent the Montreux Treaty. In essence, however, this is impossible. Because, the Treaty speaks of the crossing of both the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles. Therefore, a Canal in Constantinople bypasses one part of the Treaty. The Bosphorus Straits. But not the Straits of Dardanelles. Simpler; In order to reach Constantinople, a ship coming from the Mediterranean will “stumble” in the Dardanelles, where the Montreux Treaty will be in force. On the other hand, if a ship passes through Constantinople coming from the Black Sea, it will “stumble” again in the Dardanelles, that is, in the Treaty of Montreux.
The treaty was signed in 1936 and gives Turkey control of the Bosphorus Strait, the Sea of Marmara and the Dardanelles Straits, while guaranteeing free navigation by civilian ships in peacetime. It allows the passage of the warships of the Black Sea countries with a notice of one week, setting some conditions of displacement, size and armament. However, it significantly restricts the passage of non-Black Sea warships, such as the United States. It also allows Turkey to militarize the Straits. The terms of the treaty were a source of controversy with the then Soviet Union, now Russia, over the passage of its warships.
Recently, 104 Turkish admirals stated in an open letter that the Montreux Treaty safeguarded Turkish interests in the best possible way and described it as dangerous to open a debate on its revision. Their concern hides two hot issues. The first relates to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Because in November 1994 the recast of the Montreux Treaty was requested, in order to make it compatible with the then new UNCLOS Convention.
But Turkey refuses to sign the UNCLOS Convention. Because, in addition to undermining its expansionist aspirations in the Aegean and the eastern Mediterranean, it will also weaken its control over the Straits. The reason; With the new UNCLOS Convention there are no closed seas, as some people wrongly or intentionally claim. Free navigation is ensured, under conditions that are less in Turkey’s interest than those in force under the Montreux Treaty. A shocking example is the Straits of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf. The second part of the admirals’ concern will be seen below.
One wonders, does Erdogan not know of this possibility? Obviously he knows it. But with the announcement of the canal construction plan, he “blackmailed” the beginning of a literature on the revision of the Montreux Treaty, without raising the issue himself. But, also without the need for revision, because the Straits of the Dardanelles also exist.
But, who can rule out the possibility of announcing the construction of another Canal. Where; North of Gallipoli, in the Sea of Marmara. Which will offer an alternative bypass of the Dardanelles Straits. Or, to imply it. Looking at the map, everyone realizes that this will be a simpler project than that of the construction of the Istanbul Canal. Then, there will be no need to revise the Montreux Treaty, as it has practically and essentially bypassed it. This is the only explanation for the statement he made in January 2020, saying that “The Montreux Treaty concerns and binds only the Straits. The Canal is outside the Montreux Treaty. “The Treaty of Montreux together with the Straits is history.” Because, either he does not know what he is saying, or he knows, but he does not reveal the whole plan. Or, he prefers to let it be implied.
However, the Constantinople Canal is a huge question mark both from an environmental and a technical-economic point of view. There are serious reservations about the impact it will have on the environment, and huge funds are required to finance the construction. In addition, there is the issue of financial viability. The competitive crossing of the Bosphorus Straits will continue to exist.
The cost of crossing the Bosphorus is minimal, the number of crossings in recent years tends to decrease and only during the winter months, during periods of severe weather conditions, there are delays in the passage of ships, which translates into additional costs for ships. In short, for the Canal to be economically viable, the fees and costs of passing a ship through it will need to be more expensive than those of the Bosphorus. This means non-competitiveness. Meaning unprofitable. Unless, Erdogan forces, «bullying”, some types and sizes of ships to pass through it. Something he flew in January 2020: “The Istanbul Canal will reduce traffic on the Bosphorus. Only dry cargo ships will pass through the Bosphorus Straits.” This, however, will bring him into conflict with the entire international community.
It is likely that Erdogan will use the Canal (or Canals) as a bargaining chip, expecting broader geopolitical benefits. Like, the non hinder of the realization of the “Blue Homeland” in the Aegean and in the eastern Mediterranean. In exchange of leaving the Canal (or Canals) on paper.
The insidious “pursuit” of opening up the renegotiation of the Montreux Treaty with the Canal (or Canals?) as a tool, but without asking for it himself, is an important issue. It is one thing for someone to ask for something first and another for or others to ask you for something first, in any negotiations. In which, Erdogan will try to appear, as usual, as the one with the upper hand, holding the alternative of the Canal (or Canals) under his arm.
The Straits, the Canal, the Treaty of Montreux and the Treaty on the Law of the Sea are therefore directly linked to the “Blue Homeland” project. If Erdogan implements it, placing half of the Aegean under Turkish rule (probably to be called “Eastern” Aegean, according to the “model” of “XXXx” Macedonia, coincidentally?), then most likely he will state that, supposedly, he recedes and accepts the application of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea in the Aegean and the Mediterranean. Because, its implementation it will unite half of the Aegean with the Turkish coast. This includes the control of half of Cyprus (was it named “XXXx” Cyprus, by chance?), which he intends not just to become independent, but to annex to Turkey. Thus, he will maximize Turkey’s maritime sovereign rights and controlled maritime zones in the Aegean and the eastern Mediterranean. That is, almost the entire sea route to and from the Black Sea. In return he will “offer” the maintenance of the status of the Montreux Treaty in the Straits. Which, is, once again, in Turkey’s interest.
Of course, the new United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) ensures, as has been said, the free passage of ships. That is why Russia supports the right of Greece to extend the territorial waters in the Aegean to 12 nautical miles. But, it is completely different for the territorial waters to remain Greek, than to become Turkish. Turkey has an unreliable history of complying with international treaties and international law. Few without doubt examples? The illegal military invasions in Cyprus, Syria and Iraq, the illegal military support in Libya, the denial of the UNCLOS UN Convention and now the subversive “blackmail” of a useless or revised Montreux Treaty.
But, this scenario involves a serious factor. The second hot part that lurks in the letter of the Turkish admirals. That is Russia. In which case her commercial and military sea route from and to the Mediterranean Sea will be placed under the Turkish appetites or future blackmale.
The crucial point, then, is how Russia views the Canal (or Canals) and the “Blue Homeland.” In the first issue she is clearly negative. The second one, is a question mark. In other words, it is unknown if Russia prefers the Aegean to remain as it is, Greek, or half to become Turkish. Remaining Greek means in the “hands” of a credible or submissive state. Both cases are advantageous. Or, to spend half of it in a state (Turkey) unpredictable and with pimping practices.
Turkish admirals and Kemalist opposition political factions are calling for Turkish expansion to be concentrated in the Aegean. That means in the “Blue Homeland”. Not to a simultaneous opening of the Straits regime. Erdogan thinks sideways, the Kemalists think straight.
The area enters an unspecified orbit. There will certainly be negotiations, the preludes of which may have, informally, already begun. But the story is clear. Russia has never taken control of the passage of its merchant and warships to and from the Mediterranean. The Russo-Turkish wars show this.
In this hot diplomatic and military chessboard, Greece, with its “colorful” political leaderships which are making voluntary concessions to a “non-existent” state (Skopje) and two non-aggressive countries (Italy and Egypt), seems doomed to “celebrate” whenever makes courageous scherzo in the Turkish preliminary “erotic” squabbles. But, in the end, they negotiate the size of the “extradition” to a “procurer-pimp” country (Turkey).
What is the hope to escape? Some say if we give Turkey what it wants. Some say “by luck”. Others generally say, “A God will save us.” Personally, I believe in the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ.
Let us pray.
Agios Petros (Saint Peter), Lefkada, 26th of April 2021