A high-rank Turkish official said that Ankara “has not yet decided how to implement the Montreux convention”. Kyiv has been asking Ankara for some time to stop Russian warships from entering the Black Sea from the Mediterranean by implementing the Montreux Convention of 1936 about the maritime regime. In a Tweet on Feb 26 afternoon following a telephone conversation with Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan, Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky has said the following: “The ban on the passage of Russian warships to the Black Sea and significant military and humanitarian support for Ukraine is extremely important today. The people of Ukraine will never forget that!”
That message has been misinterpreted in social media as Erdoğan has given a positive answer to Zelensky and Turkey has closed the Bosphorus to Russian warships to join the Russian Black Sea Fleet. The Turkish official speaking on condition of anonymity told YetkinReport that Ankara has been working on the case, but no decision has been made yet.
What does Montreux say?
The 1936 Montreux Convention about the maritime regime of the Turkish Straits and the Black Sea, enables Turkey to close the Straits to the warships of belligerent countries at times or under threat of war.
Article 19 of the Convention says, “in time of war, Turkey not being belligerent, warships shall enjoy complete freedom of transit and navigation, with the condition of no hostile action.”
Article 20 says “in time of war, Turkey being belligerent” (…) “the passage of warships shall be left entirely to the discretion of the Turkish government”.
Article 21 says “Should Turkey consider herself to be threatened with imminent danger of war she shall have the right to apply the provisions of Article 20 of the present Convention.”
The Convention brings strict limitations on the displacement of the non-Black Sea warships and their duration (21 days with 15 days of advance notice) in the Black Sea.
Turkey slams Russia but wants to keep the ties
Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Russia, and Georgia have shores to the Black Sea. Turkey, Bulgaria, and Romania are also NATO countries. But other NATO member countries can enter the Black Sea from the Turkish Straits within those limitations.
Both Ukraine and Russia are Turkey’s neighbors with considerable trade relations in between. Turkish President Erdoğan has slammed the Russian military action on Ukraine as a violation of the territorial and sovereignty rights of an independent country. Erdoğan has been offering to mediate between Kyiv and Moscow and says Turkey wanted to keep good relations with both countries.
Turkey as a NATO member has defense industry relations with both countries. Turkish purchase of Russian S-400 missiles escalated the tension in the Turkish-American relations and resulted in American ousting of Turkey from the F-35 jets program in which Turkey used to be a co-producer. Turkey exports Bayraktar TB-2 armed drones to Ukraine which has caused a Russian reaction.