The retired admirals belong to a group of 104 former naval officers who have signed a petition expressing concern about the fate of the Montreux Convention, an international document signed by Turkey in 1936.
The treaty provides that Turkey may decide on the passage of civil and military vessels through the Bosphorus and Dardanelles, the strait between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. In World War II, this enabled Turkey to remain neutral.
The signatories of the petition fear that the Montreux Convention will not apply to the canal to be built west of the Bosphorus. According to them, this could endanger the security of Turkey.
The retired military also fear that President Erdogan will unilaterally withdraw from the treaty. Something similar happened last month with the Istanbul Convention, a European convention on combating violence against women.
The ten former officers arrested are said to have initiated the petition, along with four other retired admirals who must report to the judicial authorities in the coming days. According to news agency Anadolu, the detainees include Cem Gürdeniz, a Kemalist-nationalist hawk who is the spiritual father of the Mavi Vatan doctrine (Blue Fatherland).
Ambience has improved
Under this concept, Turkey is entitled to a large part of the waters in the east of the Mediterranean, at the expense of the maritime zones claimed by Greece and Cyprus in particular. Cyprus and Greek islands like Crete have no more maritime zones than 12 miles of territorial sea, according to the Blue Fatherland. There is no ground for this in international law.
Gürdeniz designed his Blue Fatherland in 2006. Two years ago, the concept was officially embraced by the Turkish government. That coincided with President Erdogan’s new aggressive course of foreign policy. This was expressed, among other things, in a confrontation with Greece about the rights to the gas fields in the east of the Mediterranean Sea and the associated territorial claims.
In the past summer, the conflict with Greece ran high, so much so that at one point a military confrontation was imminent. The European Union was right behind the Greeks in this.
Ankara and Athens have been in talks again for two months. The atmosphere has also improved with the European Union – partly as a result of this. President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen and President Charles Michel of the European Council will visit the Turkish capital on Tuesday, April 6, where they will meet Erdogan.
The arrest of Gürdeniz and other admirals may make it easier for the Turkish government to make concessions in the negotiations with Greece over the maritime dispute.
According to the Turkish government, the construction of the new canal is necessary because it is too crowded on the Bosphorus, with 50,000 ships annually one of the busiest straits in the world. Many oil tankers and other ships with dangerous cargo use the route. Particularly in the last decades of the last century, a number of major accidents occurred, in which tankers ran aground or collided and a lot of oil ended up in the water.
The canal is one of Erdogan’s mega infrastructure projects. The opposition sees it as a cost-intensive prestige project, bad for the city and bad for the environment. The mayor of Istanbul, Ekrem Imamoglu, is campaigning against the plan with the slogan ‘Istanbul or the canal’.
Erdogan is playing high stakes with his new channel
The ‘insane’ mega-project must be the crowning achievement of the infrastructural revolution that the Turkish president has carried out since 2002.
Who has international law on his side?
A conflict over the gas fields in the Eastern Mediterranean brought Greece and Turkey close to confrontation. The weapons in the dispute: legal claims.