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Report: US, NATO dispute with Russia does not undermine Turkey Black Sea rights

January 29, 2022 at 5:12 pm

Turkey’s drillship Kanuni passes through Istanbul’s Bosphorus Strait as it sets sail for Black Sea, in Istanbul, Turkey on 13 November 2020 [Celal Güneş/Anadolu Agency]

Proposals to Russia by the United States and NATO regarding the Black Sea do not violate Turkey’s maritime rights, Turkish sources have confirmed.

Earlier this week, Russia released a series of security demands to NATO in continued negotiations over the Ukraine crisis. Those demands included guarantees that the alliance will never admit Kyiv and other former Soviet member states into NATO and that the deployment of western troops in those Eastern European counties will be withdrawn.

On Wednesday, the US then responded by reiterating its support for NATO’s “open-door” policy, and the alliance announced that it had also responded “in parallel with the United States.”

Some of the security demands and matters discussed by the US and Russia also included issues regarding the Black Sea, with it being a strategic body of water separating NATO’s easternmost front from Russia and Ukraine.

That resulted in some concerns that Turkey’s exclusive maritime rights over the Black Sea – under the 1936 Montreux Convention – would potentially be threatened by the regional tensions and possible naval conflict. Anonymous Turkish sources have reportedly told the London-based news outlet Middle East Eye, however, that that is not the case.

READ: Turkey’s balancing act between Russia and Ukraine

According to one of the sources familiar with the situation, NATO’s response “doesn’t cover the Black Sea.” Another source, a senior Turkish official, revealed that Washington asked Ankara for its view on the Black Sea to add to the proposal, confirming that “the proposal that was shared with us doesn’t include anything that could dispute the Montreux Convention.” He added that “It is essentially about risk reduction and incident prevention at sea.”

The Montreux Convention defines as Turkish waters the passage into the Black Sea through the Turkish straits, and gives control of that passage to Ankara while allowing civilian and trade ships free access in times of peace. The agreement also enables Turkey to enforce certain restrictions on the entry of warships belonging to non-Black Sea nations.

Turkish official stressed “we made clear to our allies that they shouldn’t even think about anything outside the Montreux Convention,” assuring that the Turkish government would not approve of any “restrictive approaches.”

In the ongoing dispute between the NATO alliance – of which Turkey is a key member of – and Russia over Ukraine, Ankara has taken a largely neutral and mediatory approach, but has supplied Kyiv with armed combat drones and warned Moscow against conducting an invasion.

READ: Turkey and Ukraine could each be the foreign policy saviour of the other