Istanbul Canal and the future of the Montreux Convention

The Turkish authorities are increasingly vying for the implementation of the Istanbul Canal project. This artificial shipping artery will connect the Black Sea to the Marmara "doubling" the famous Bosphorus.

What are the true motives behind this project and how can it affect the strategic balance of power in the Black Sea region? And most importantly — will the Montreux Convention, which for 85 years has been governing the passage of military ships via the Turkish Straits, retain its importance if the megaproject is completed?

Senior RISS expert Georgy Sosnov comments on the Istanbul Canal prospects and the future of the Convention.

Summary:

  • Revising the Montreux Convention is not in Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's interests, as it can turn the Turkish Straits into a regional hotspot.

  • Though many Western and Russian experts raise fears that the Istanbul Canal allows bypassing the Montreux Treaty, in fact, there is no solid ground for such speculations. From a legal standpoint, Montreux covers the Turkish Straits, Bosphorus, and Dardanelles as one single system. There is no legal basis for bypassing Montreux unless separate canals were to be constructed to bypass both the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles.

  • By constructing the Istanbul Canal, Turkey wants to relieve pressure on the busy Bosphorus and charge fees for passage through the Istanbul Canal.

  • Turkey is apparently appealing for Chinese BRI funding of the project. Besides, Ankara may seek for one of the maritime BRI routes to pass through the Istanbul Canal.
Black Sea Turkish Straits Georgy Sosnov Montreux Treaty Turkey Erdogan