Canal Istanbul project won't alter Montreux Convention, Turkey's control over straits: FM Cavusoglu

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Canan Kevser
01 July 2021, 12:16
Canan Kevser
01 July 2021, 12:16

Turkey's Canal Istanbul mega-project will not impact proper governing of the Turkish Straits, the Turkish foreign minister told his Russian counterpart on Wednesday after bilateral talks.

The planned alternate route between the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea – set for completion in 2025-2026 – will have no effect on the 1936 Montreux Agreement on the Turkish Straits, nor vice versa, Turkey's Mevlut Cavusoglu told a joint news conference with Russia's Sergey Lavrov.

"The maximum capacity for safe passage through the Bosphorus is 25,000. But currently, this figure has exceeded 45,000. We calculated that this figure will be 80,000 by 2050. Since it's needed in all respects, we've now started to take concrete steps to implement the vision project put forward by our President (Recep Tayyip Erdogan) years ago," the Turkish minister said.

Cavusoglu underlined that Turkey has implemented the Montreux Agreement to the letter and has been faithful to the treaties it has signed.

Canal Istanbul

The Turkish government approved President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s plans to build a shipping canal in Istanbul similar to the Panama or Suez canals as an alternative to Turkey’s internationally used straits connecting Asia to Europe.

The planned 45-kilometer (nearly 28-mile) canal – which will connect the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara and the Mediterranean and to is built in Istanbul's Küçükçekmece-Sazlıdere-Durusu corridor on the European side – aims to boost the city's marine through-traffic capacity.

Ten bridges are also planned to be built as part of the canal while the project currently involves six bridges, one of them being a railway. In addition, an area of nearly 3 million square meters will be rented as commercial areas and this is also expected to create $3 billion of yearly income.

The government has long drawn attention to the heavy traffic in the Bosporus Strait and the extended waiting times in Istanbul to use the passage.

The number of ships passing through the Bosporus has dropped over the last decade, yet the size of the vessels and their loads have increased significantly.

It is estimated to boast a capacity of 160 vessels a day and is expected to generate significant economic value by reducing transit periods and costs, in addition to passage fees.

Montreux Convention

The Montreux Convention regulates the use of the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits – which link the Black Sea to the Mediterranean Sea – for cargo ships from other countries.

The treaty also grants Turkey rule over the waterways and peacetime guarantees for access for civilian vessels.

According to the text, the passages of war vessels through the straits are subject to restrictions that vary depending on whether they belong to countries with coasts along the Black Sea or not.

Erdogan said in January that the Montreux Convention would only apply to the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits in terms of maritime traffic, not the planned canal.