BY ZEYNEP GURCANLI
The agreement on the delivery of Ukrainian and Russian grain to the world, signed under the leadership of Turkey, under the auspices of the UN, give the impression of a compromise where everyone wins.
This is how it appears at first glance: with the agreements, the export barriers of Russia and Ukraine, which are seen as the world’s grain warehouses, are removed, and there is a solution for the increase in food prices, which are increasing day by day on a global scale.
However, the devil is in the details. Looking closely at the deals, this is hardly a situation where “everybody is a winner.” On the contrary, small concessions that can have big consequences in the future are contained in the agreement texts.
The expression “agreements” is not in vain, of course. Since Ukraine did not want to sign an agreement with Russia, which attacked its country, “mirror agreements” were signed. Accordingly, both Ukraine and Russia signed different agreements with Turkey and the UN, containing similar statements on the same subject.
The terms of the agreements are also different from each other. The Ukraine agreement covers a period of 120 days, while the Russian agreement is 3 years.
Ukraine’s benefit in the deals is the opportunity to sell the grain accumulated in its warehouses. However, while obtaining this, it compromised on the mines it placed in front of its ports – this was port security against a possible attack by Russia.
As a matter of fact, how “great” of a concession this was was revealed in the missile attack on the Odessa port just after the agreements were signed.
ARE WE BEING DECEIVED?
Ankara seems to have been the most surprised by the attack. The statements by Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, who signed the agreement texts on behalf of Turkey, reveal this astonishment.
In a statement he made right after the attack, Akar stated that he was in contact with Russia and said, “The Russians informed us that they had absolutely nothing to do with this attack and that they examined the issue very closely and in detail.” Only a few hours after Akar said this, Russia officially claimed responsibility for the attack. Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova and Russian Defense Ministry Spokesperson Igor Konashenkov officially announced that the Odessa port was hit by Russia. Can Akar’s statement indicated that Ankara is being deceived? It seems so.
Looking at all of this, it is possible to say that the biggest “winner” in the agreements signed in Istanbul is Russia. Moscow has opened a huge hole in the sanctions pressure that the West is trying to establish.
IS TURKEY’S MONTREAUX AUTHORITY UPHELD?
In the AK Party government in Turkey, there is an atmosphere of victory, presenting themselves as the party that handled the agreements. However, will this victory in the agreements cause legal problems for Turkey in the long run? That’s the question.
IYI Party Deputy Chairman, retired Ambassador Ahmet Erozan, raised three questions to Hulusi Akar. He asked whether the agreements deemed a “victory” would actually create a role for Turkey.
Erozan’s first question is whether the agreement and the joint mechanism to inspect the cargo ships of Ukraine and Russia legally bring about a “perforation” of the Montreux Treaty.
Article 4 of the Montreux Convention states that cargo ships have the right of free passage through the Straits even in war and leaves the regulation of this to Turkey. However, with the agreements signed with Ukraine and Russia, an “inspection and coordination center” is established in Istanbul where representatives of the UN and other parties will be present. With this centre, Turkey is opening the sole authority given to it by Montreux to be shared with Ukraine, Russia and the UN. According to Erozan, this check should have been carried out in international waters, not in Turkish territorial waters (i.e. Istanbul), where the Montreux Treaty regulated the crossings. Thus, the powers given to Turkey by the Montreux Treaty would not be “eroded.”
The second issue is the expression of “international maritime law” in the treaties. According to Erozan, there is only the 1983 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Turkey is not a party to this convention. In this respect, it is wrong to refer to an international agreement to which Turkey is not a party in an agreement signed by Turkey. Inevitably, in the Aegean disputes between Greece and Turkey, Athens gets legal support from this international convention. There is a reference to the International Law of the Sea convention in the agreement signed. Don’t you think Greece will ask on this?
The third question posed by Erozan is with regards to the expression “Turkish strait” in the agreements. In Montreux, the Bosphorus and Dardanelles Straits are arranged as a single water system and are described as the “Turkish Straits.” Erozan asks the reason for the use of the singular expression “Turkish Strait” to the AKP Minister Hulusi Akar, who signed the agreement. These are very serious questions that may trouble Turkey in the future with regard to the most critical foreign policy issues.
Let’s see if there will be a response from the AK Party, which is in a victorious mood.