Montreux Convention Regarding the Regime of the Turkish Straits

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The Montreux Convention Regarding the Regime of the Straits was a 1936 agreement that gives Turkey control over the Bosporus Straits and the Dardanelles and regulates military activity in the region. Signed on 20 July 1936, it permitted Turkey to remilitarise the Straits and imposed new restrictions on the passage of combatant vessels. It is still in force today, with some amendments. It went into effect on November 9, 1936. It was registered in League of Nations Treaty Series on December 11, 1936.[1]

The Convention gives Turkey full control over the Straits and guarantees the free passage of civilian vessels in peacetime. It severely restricts the passage of non-Turkish military vessels and prohibits some types of warships, such as aircraft carriers, from passing through the Straits. The terms of the convention have been the source of controversy over the years, most notably concerning the Soviet Union's military access to the Mediterranean Sea.



The convention was one of a series of agreements in the 19th and 20th centuries that sought to address the long-running "Straits Question" of who should control the strategically vital link between the Black Sea and Mediterranean Sea. In 1923 the Treaty of Lausanne had demilitarised the Dardanelles and opened the Straits to unrestricted civilian and military traffic, under the supervision of the International Straits Commission of the League of Nations.

By the late 1930s, the strategic situation in the Mediterranean had significantly altered with the rise of Fascist Italy, which controlled the Greek-inhabited Dodecanese islands off the west coast of Turkey and had significantly militarised the region with the construction of fortifications on Rhodes, Leros and Kos. The Turks feared that Italy would seek to exploit access to the Straits to expand its power into Anatolia and the Black Sea region. There were also significant fears of a Bulgarian rearmament.[2] Although Turkey was not permitted to refortify the Straits it nonetheless did so secretly.[3]

In April 1935, the Turkish government despatched a lengthy diplomatic note to the signatories of the Treaty of Lausanne proposing a conference on the agreement of a new regime for the Straits and requested that the League of Nations authorise the reconstruction of the Dardanelles forts. In the note, Turkish foreign minister Tevfik Rüştü Aras explained that the international situation had changed greatly since 1923. At that time, Europe had been moving towards disarmament and an international guarantee to defend the Straits. The Abyssinia Crisis of 1934-1935, the denunciation by Germany of the Treaty of Versailles and international moves towards rearmament meant that "the only guarantee intended to guard against the total insecurity of the Straits has just disappeared in its turn." Indeed, Aras said, "the Powers most closely concerned are proclaiming the existence of a threat of general conflagration." The key weaknesses of the present regime were that the machinery for collective guarantees were too slow and ineffective, there was no contingency for a general threat of war and no provision for Turkey to defend itself. Turkey was therefore prepared

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