Turkey prepared to limit Russian warships transit between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean
Turkey has said that the situation in Ukraine has become a war, a declaration that authorized Ankara to activate the Montreux Convention which limits Russian war vessels from entering the Black Sea, through the strategic straits of the Bosporus and Dardanelle which link with the Mediterranean.
Turkey’s foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that in the beginning, it was a Russian attack, now it has turned into a war. The minister added, Turkey will implement all provisions of Montreux Convention in a transparent manner
The so called 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 percent 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.
According to the 1936 Montreux Convention, regarding the Regime of the Straits, often referred to simply as the Montreux Convention, Turkey has control over both the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits.
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.
Russia’s location on the Black Sea complicates the situation. 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.
For example, a Russian fleet registered in the Black Sea but currently located in the Mediterranean Sea, is allowed to pass through the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits and return to its base. The condition also applies to Russian fleets currently in the Black Sea that belong to a base in the Mediterranean or Baltic Sea. Russia is free to take them out of the Black Sea.
If this warship is to go to the base in the country that is a party to the war, then this passage cannot be prevented, he said, adding that there should be no abuse and the ships returning to their bases should not be involved in a war after saying it will go back to the base.
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 Organization 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.