Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Sunday that Turkey has decided that Russia’s invasion to Ukraine is a “war.”
“Is this a conflict or a war? We decided on that. Article 19 of the Montreux Convention is very clear. This is a war.” he said in a live interview to CNN Turk.
Turkey’s recognition is important for the application of 1936 Montreux Convention that regulates naval passage through the Turkish straits.
The Montreux Convention gives Turkey certain control over the passage of war ships from Dardanelles and Bosporus Straits that connect the Aegean, the Marmara, and the Black Sea.
In peace times, war ships can pass the straits by prior diplomatic notification with certain limitations about the weight of the ships and arms they carry depending on the ship if it belongs to is a Black Sea country or not.
During wartime, when Turkey is not at war, warships can use the straits except for those belonging to belligerent states.
According to the convention, if Turkey is a part of the war or considers itself threatened with imminent danger of war, it can shut down the straits to the passage of warships that have a coast onto the Black Sea or not.
However, as Çavuşoğlu mentions the article 19 of the Montreux Convention provides an exception. The war ships of belligerent countries can return to their base of origin in Black Sea.
“Now this conflict has turned into a war, in this case, this is how we apply Montreux for the parties, Russia or Ukraine. Article 19 provides an exception. If the ship of the war country will return to its port, an exception is made. We will implement all the provisions of Montreux with transparency.”
This means even if Turkey bans, Russian and Ukrainian ships can return to their base of origin. Çavuşoğlu said when applying the exception countries should not abuse the clause, and added, “I explain Montreux and Turkey’s position."
More background: The Montreux Convention gives Turkey control over the passage of vessels through those two key straits.
In peacetime and war time, Turkey does not have the right to restrict civilian ships even if Turkey is part of the war.
Warships can navigate through the straits during peacetime, but under conditions that restrict aggregate tonnage depending on if they are or are not a Black Sea country and limits the duration of stay in the Black Sea for non-Black Sea nations.
Black Sea nations include Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, Turkey, Russia, and Ukraine.
There are also limitations on the caliber of weapons they can carry, and Turkey needs to be notified of the request.
Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly mischaracterized the Turkish foreign minister's comments about applying the Montreux Convention's exception.