Fatih Cekirge: U.S. likely to demand new arrangement for Turkish Straits

Turkey's state-run Anatolian Agency Friday had published a "warning" story, which contradicted with its news style. However it was well prepared and based on concrete facts.

AA was issuing an official warning:

"Turkey should be prepared that the U.S. would demand the amendment of the Montreux Convention..."

This statement was told by Hasan Kanbolat, an expert with Turkish think tank, ASAM, was a signal of a concern which had been recently dominated Ankara.

The real question is:

- Was the war on Georgia a plan to open the Black Sea to NATO forces?

The whole world had asked the same question after the war erupted: Is the Georgian leader, Saakashvili, a mad man, who held a military operation in South Ossetia despite Russia?

Now this question has a possible answer: This war had sped up Georgia's NATO membership process, moreover turned into an urgent requirement.

So Saakashvili is not a mad man.

If we go back to the straits issue. In the short term the U.S. would propose Turkey make a new arrangement on its straits. And it would ask for an easing on the arrangements for the passage of warships, including American ones (possibly on the condition of a NATO decision).

It is for this reason that the Black Sea is no longer an internal sea and had become the waterway of the world's most important energy lines. And Russia does not want any other country's hegemony here.

This is the main reason for the Georgia war, Russia's greenlight to the invasion of Azerbaijan by Armenia and the increased partnership of Moscow-Tehran-Damascus-Beijing.

The Montreux Convention was signed in 1936 and the NATO was established in 1949. The U.S. did not sign the Montreux Convention and NATO was born afterwards, meaning they could demand a new arrangement. Moreover, the new members of NATO, Romania and Bulgaria, also have coasts bordering the Black Sea.

In the Bucharest summit of NATO in April, Georgia's NATO membership caused widespread debate. If Georgia was a NATO member, then U.S. warships would have been deployed to the Black Sea under the NATO umbrella. Or they were about to.

Moreover as a NATO member, Turkey was likely to support this. So the "operation on South Ossetia" could well be a part of a larger to move to make Georgia a NATO member.

The real question for Turkey still lies ahead; because the Black Sea is now an "energy sea" and neither the U.S. nor Russia would want to leave it alone.

Therefore, in the short term, a debate could be opened on the Montreux Convention at a NATO meeting. The process to water down the Montreux Convention may have already started. The U.S. and NATO could ask for new arrangements on the status of the Turkish Straits. Turkey, of course, would resist this. This serious question has been debated in the strategic rooms and corridors of diplomacy in Ankara.

[Source: Hot News Turkey, 25Aug08]

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The Question of South Ossetia
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