Turkey’s Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, made significant remarks to the press following the cabinet meeting held on 28 February evening. The primary topic of his announcement was Turkey’s course of action about the measures over the passing regime across the straits under the Montreux Convention.
He stated that the Turkish government has warned all countries (whether bordering the Black Sea or not) not to send warships via the straits to the Black Sea during the Russia-Ukraine war. He emphasized that no such attempt has occurred thus far.
“When Turkey is not a belligerent in the conflict, it has the authority to restrict the passage of the warring states’ warships across the straits. If the warship is returning to its base in the Black Sea, the passage is not closed. We adhere to the Montreux rules. All governments, riparian and non-riparian, were warned not to send warships across the straits.”
Mevlut Cavusoglu, Foreign Minister of Turkey
The Minister also stated that the Russian government had previously questioned if Turkey would implement Montreux rules when necessary and that the Turkish government had assured them that Turkey would strictly stick to the terms of the agreement.
Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, confirmed the statements of Cavusoglu by stating the importance of Montreux rules to avoid escalation in the region. He also underlined that Turkey has strictly fulfilled its responsibilities within the framework of the institutions and alliances with which it is involved, especially the UN, NATO, and the EU, and defined Russia’s invasion as “unacceptable”.
“Turkiye will use its authority over the Turkish Straits under the 1936 Montreux Convention to prevent the Russia-Ukraine “crisis” from further escalating. “
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President of Turkey
In an interview with CNN Turk on February 27, Mevlut Cavusoglu revealed the first hints of this decision, stating that they consider the conflict between the two countries to be a full-fledged war. He referred to Article 19 of the Montreux Convention, emphasizing Turkey’s control over the straits during warfare.
Article 19 of the convention is as follows;
In a time of war, Turkey not being belligerent, warships shall enjoy complete freedom of transit and navigation through the Straits under the same conditions as those laid down in Articles 10 to 18 (the articles regulate tonnage limitations and passing rules).
Vessels of war belonging to belligerent Powers shall not, however, pass through the Straits except in cases arising out of the application of Article 25 of the present Convention, and in cases of assistance rendered to a State victim of aggression in virtue of a treaty of mutual assistance binding Turkey, concluded within the framework of the Covenant of the League of Nations, and registered and published in accordance with the provisions of Article 18 of the Covenant.
In the exceptional cases provided for in the preceding paragraph, the limitations laid down in Articles 10 to 18 of the present Convention shall not be applicable.
Notwithstanding the prohibition of passage laid down in paragraph 2 above, 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.
Vessels of war belonging to belligerent Powers shall not make any capture, exercise the right of visit and search, or carry out any hostile act in the Straits.
Despite the fact that the Turkish minister stated Article 19, this article prohibits warships from the warring states. As a result, the Turkish government appears to have exercised its rights under Article 21, which states that passage of warships should be wholly at the discretion of the Turkish Government when it feels itself to be threatened with imminent danger of war.
Article 21: Should Turkey consider herself to be threatened with imminent danger of war she shall have the right to apply the provisions of Article 20 [ In time of war, Turkey being belligerent, the provisions of Articles 10 to 18 shall not be applicable; the passage of warships shall be left entire y to the discretion of the Turkish Government.] of the present Convention.
Turkish minister’s statements are considered as an official declaration of the Turkish government regarding the passing regime over the straits.