Duvar English

The controversial Kanal Istanbul project could jeopardize the Montreux Convention and therefore should be “avoided,” Ahmet Davutoğlu, a former prime minister from the ruling Justce and Development Party (AKP), said on Dec. 25.

“The Montreux Convention is diplomatically one of the most important agreements and gains of Turkey. Any implementation that could harm these gains should be avoided,” Davutoğlu told a press meeting in the capital Ankara, while revaling his newly founded Future Party’s executives.

The Turkish government has said that Kanal İstanbul project aims to minimize shipping traffic in the Bosporus but analysts have speculated the main reason for the construction of the Kanal is to bypass the Montreux Convention, a seven-decade long convention which ensures that ships enjoy free passage through Turkish straits. As such, the government could charge ships for passing through the new canal.

Signed in 1936, Montreux Convention gives Turkey a privileged position in the management of the Bosphorus in Istanbul and the Dardanelle Strait in Çanakkale. The convention also holds that civilian ships can use the passages in peace time, but that naval ships not belonging to Black Sea states would not be permitted. The convention also reinstated Turkey’s right to militarize the straits.

Davutoğlu said that during his time as a foreign minister and then prime minister he had conducted various meetings with the relevant institutions regarding the Kanal Istanbul project which led him to have “very serious concerns” over the planned project’s environmental effects. “We’ll share with you [the public] a comprehensive report about Montreux Convention and Kanal Istanbul next week,” he said.

“The ecological feasibility reports should be analyzed very carefully; the Marmara Sea’s ecological properties and water basins should be looked into. I was not satisfied about the reports that I received during my term as a prime minister, so I had given instructions for feasibility studies to be conducted in many areas. We had many serious concerns,” he said.

‘I had told Erdoğan that the project should be abandoned’

Davutoğlu also said that he had conveyed his “concerns” regarding the project to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the time. “I conveyed all these issues to President in January of 2018. I had conveyed all my concerns regarding the Kanal Istanbul [project] and expressed my opinions that this project should be abandoned.”