DiplomacyIR & Politics

Revisited: Montreux Convention

Montreux convention’s discussions have gained momentum in recent days. One of the most critical discussions began to turn around Montreux Straits Convention in Turkey. In this article, I will try to explain, for better understanding, the talks’ focal point and what does mean to Turkey’s geopolitical positions.

In 1923 with the Treaty of Lausanne, temporary arrangements were made regarding the Bosporus and Dardanelles Straits. Accordingly, it was envisaged that under the supervision of the International Straits Commission of the League of Nations, the treaty of Lausanne demilitarised the straits and unlocked the Straits for civilian and military purpose. To sustain this effectuation, an international council was designed under the command of a Turkish president.

However, the arms race between the states before World War 2 fuelled the unrest and raised Turkey’s concern on the straits’ status. Thus, Turkey publicly argued that one of the parts of the Treaty of Lausanne needs to be replaced. As a result of all those concerns, changing the temporary arrangement to the permanent, the Republic of Turkey summoned the Lausanne Treaty signatories and proposed a revision on Straits to rearrange the straits’ status and use the channels for civil purposes. In 1936, besides the United Kingdom, Balkan Entente supported and paid attention to Turkey’s offer and declared its full support. After weeks of negotiations, Turkey intensified diplomatic contracts until the talks held in the summer of 1936.

The conference convened in June and, after weeks of negotiations, the Montreux Straits Convention was signed on 20 July 1936. Including Turkey as well as Bulgaria, France, UK, Australia, Greece, Japan, Romania, the Soviet Union, and Yugoslavia signed the convention.

Convention gives Turkey full control and control rights over the straits; it also ensured the free passage of civilian ships in peacetime. In the Montreux Straits Convention, the duty of the International Straits Commission was also terminated. The convention restricts the passage of warships that do not belong to countries that have not to coast on the Black Sea.

The Montreux Convention is the first formal revision of a postwar treaty by peaceful means. It is also a clear victory for Turkey, for her friends in the Balkan Entente, and for the policy of regional pacts[1].

Montreux Convention was signed on the eve of the 2nd World War and from this perspective it brought an essential balance factor in the region, especially in the Black Sea region. This contract has been made for 20 years, and at the end of 20 years, the parties are entitled to exit in any way or anyone who wishes to terminate them. However, after 20 years have passed, no one touched this, and after taking into account the guarantee which has been achieved today within the scope of this balance, it has shown the importance of the contact already. Especially, when “Turkey closed the Straits to the war ships of the belligerent countries during this war in which Turkey remained neutral. This situation served to the purpose of the Soviet Union since the transit of German submarines and war ships through the Straits was prevented”[2].

Montreux Convention is unalterable and should not replace with a new one. Today, when we look at the geopolitical balance on the northern hemisphere, Turkey’s guarantee is the Montreux Convention. To be fair, Montreux Convention wasn’t singed; today we would have seen a complexity in the Black Sea. The great powers would have already entered the conflict, and unfortunately, it would not have been for Turkey’s sake.

Today, when we look at the geopolitical balance on the northern hemisphere, Turkey’s guarantee is the Montreux Convention. The Republic of Turkey is a stabiliser in the region; furthermore, Turkey is the protecting power of the countries bordering the Black Sea.

The black sea is the only sea where the USA cannot enter thanks to the Montreux Convention, which is an unchangeable element of balance, must be maintained. Moreover, the deterioration of stability in the Black Sea region might cause a strain in the relationship with Russia; it will add a new challenge to the existing problems.

In this context, the successful implementation of the Montreux Convention, which is an essential element in ensuring peace, security, and stability in the Black Sea, is an indicator and a guarantee of the permanence of the region’s balance. Moreover, consisting of the delicate balance between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, Turkey has also become a more decisive position with Montreux Convention.


[1] https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/turkey/1936-10-01/straits-after-montreux-conference

[2] https://sldinfo.com/2014/04/the-montreux-convention-regarding-the-regime-of-the-straits-a-turkish-perspective/

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Berk Can Kozan

He achieved his BA Degree from the Eastern Mediterranean University in Cyprus and obtained his MA degree from University of Pécs in Hungary. His main research fields concern on nuclear deterrence, international security and foreign policy issues, international relations’ theories, and internal/external affairs of Turkey. Currently, he is a third year PhD student at the National University of Public Service in Hungary.
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