The Montreux Convention is an international agreement signed in 1936 that regulates the passage of naval vessels through the Black Sea Straits. Most importantly, it gives Turkey the right to control the passage of warships through the straits in times of war.
This Convention has been in the news because the Russia-Ukraine conflict put pressure on Turkey to exercise its right under the Montreux Convention.
Key Facts About the Montreux Convention
The Montreux Convention Regarding the Regime of the Straits was signed by ten countries - the Soviet Union, Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Yugoslavia, Australia, France, Greece, Japan, and the United Kingdom. The Convention was signed to regulate the passage of naval vessels through the Black Sea straits, also called the Turkish straits.
- The Black Sea Straits are the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus straits, which form a passage with the Sea of Marmara between them.
- This passage connects the Black Sea ports with the Mediterranean Sea and beyond.
- The Montreux Convention gives Turkey the right to ban the passage of warships through those straits with two conditions: that there should be a situation of war and the warships must belong to belligerent countries, i.e., countries which are participants in the war.
- If any country with a coastline on the Black Sea intends to send warships through the straits, they must notify Turkey eight days in advance.
- The countries bordering the Black Sea include Russia, Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, and Georgia.
- During World War II, Turkey exercised its right under the Montreux Convention to stop the Axis powers from deploying their warships to attack the Soviet Union.
Significance of the Montreux Convention in the Russia-Ukraine Conflict
The Montreux Convention has recently been in the news because of its significance in light of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
- Russia has a strong naval presence in the Black Sea - its Black Sea Fleet - which it reinforced prior to invading Ukraine.
- Turkey has come under international pressure, particularly from the West and Ukraine, to use its right under the Montreux Convention to close its straits to Russian warships.
- While Turkey wants to maintain ties with Russia, it is also interested in strengthening its ties with NATO countries, being a NATO member itself.
- In March 2022, the Turkish government officially declared the Russia-Ukraine conflict to be a war and stated that it would use its authority under the Convention to prevent the escalation of the conflict.
- However, Article 19 of the Montreux Convention contains an exception that Turkey may use as a basis for not stopping Russian warships. The exception states that warships (of belligerent countries) that are returning to their bases may do so without being stopped.
- The Turkish government referred to this exception and stated that it would not stop warships from returning to their port.
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The Montreux Convention is increasingly in focus as the Russia-Ukraine conflict plays out in the Black Sea. The conflict has caused incidents of hostility, which have led to further pressure on Turkey. There is also pressure on Turkey to permit NATO vessels to enter the straits. It remains to be seen how Turkey will implement its powers under the Montreux Convention, given the exception in Article 19.
FAQs on Montreux Convention
Q.1. What is the Montreux Convention?
The Montreux Convention is an international agreement that pertains to the passage of naval vessels through the Black Sea Straits.
Q.2. When was the Montreux Convention signed?
The Montreux Convention was signed on July 20, 1936.
Q.3. Which countries signed the Montreux Convention?
The Soviet Union, Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Yugoslavia, Australia, France, Greece, Japan, and the United Kingdom signed the Montreux Convention.
Q.4. Under the Montreux Convention, which country has the right to restrict the passage of warships through the Black Sea straits?
Under the Montreux Convention, Turkey has the right to restrict the passage of warships through the Black Sea Straits.
Q.5. What is the exception in Article 19 of the Montreux Convention?
The exception in Article 19 of the Montreux Convention states that warships returning to their base cannot be stopped.