Kanal Istanbul has nothing to do with Montreux Convention: Erdoğan

Kanal Istanbul has nothing to do with the Montreux Convention, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Wednesday, calling the huge waterway project on the edge of Istanbul Turkey’s sovereign right and vowing that it would bring major relief to the city.

“The Kanal Istanbul, which has nothing to do with the Montreux Convention, will bring Turkey greater comfort and peace,” Erdoğan said, referring to a 1936 agreement that gives Turkey control over the Bosporus and Dardanelles and regulates the transit of naval warships.

“We are bringing about work through which we will establish our own independence, our own sovereignty in full measure,” he added, speaking at the Presidential National Library in the capital Ankara.

The convention guarantees the free passage of civilian vessels in times of peace and limits the passage of naval ships that do not belong to littoral Black Sea states and governs foreign cargo ships.

Erdoğan earlier this month said Turkey remained committed to the accord but could review it in the future.

Signed on July 20, 1936, at the Montreux Palace in Switzerland, the convention gives Turkey permission to remilitarize the Bosporus and Dardanelles. It went into effect on Nov. 9, 1936, and was registered in the League of Nations Treaty Series on Dec. 11, 1936.

Erdoğan stated that the Kanal Istanbul project would add to the richness of the city and that the Bosporus will be relieved over environmental concerns.

The project will connect the Black Sea north of Istanbul to the Marmara Sea to the south, parallel to the Bosporus. It is estimated to cost over TL 75 billion ($9.2 billion).

Officials have said Montreux would not cover the canal.

The government says it will ease traffic on the Bosporus Strait, one of the world’s busiest maritime passages, and prevent accidents similar to those in previous years.

A tender for the canal will be held soon, Erdoğan said earlier this month. The groundwork for the project will be laid in the summer, he noted.

First announced a decade ago, the waterway project intends to stem the risk posed by ships carrying dangerous goods via the Bosporus, especially oil tankers.

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