Russia reminds Turkey on rules for Bosphorus and Dardanelles

Dec 11, 1998 01:00 AM

Russia hopes that Turkey will not take any unilateral steps to alter the shipping regime in the Black Sea Straits, since all such problems can be peacefully settled with the help of the International Maritime Organisation, " Roving Ambassador Yuri Merzlyakov, head of the foreign ministry's working team for the Caspian Sea, told, commenting on Turkey's threat to toughen the rules for the passage of tankers through the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles. As member of the Russian delegation, he took part in the conference on the building of pipelines from the Caspian region.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mithat Balkan, who took the floor during the conference, reaffirmed the intention of his country "to prevent the turning of the straits into a highway for super-tankers". He said that Turkey was disturbed by the possible growth of shipping through the Bosphorus, caused by the growing extraction of Caspian oil and its transportation to Europe from Novorossiysk and Supsa.
Ankara is planning to levy additional tariffs on the passage of ships through the straits, which, if need be, will make up for the possible ecological damages, and to allow only tankers with a double shell to use this waterway. Touching on the difficulties of the Bosphorus fairway, Balkan said that ships have to make twelve turns of more than eighty degrees each on this route.

"We realise Turkey's concern for its ecological safety," Merzlyakov noted. However, he recalled, the rules of shipping in the straits, which are an international seaway, were worked out by the IMO, which is based in London, and no national regulations can be allowed to contradict them. Moreover, the 1936 Montreux International Convention guarantees the passage through these straits in peacetime of any ships, belonging to the signatories of this agreement. Therefore, the Russian representative stressed, Turkey has no right to unilaterally clamp down any limitations.
"Russia," he added, "has always moved to settle these problems jointly within the IMO. And this is not only our stand. We are backed by all the other Black Sea nations. Turkey realises that it has no leeway."

Moreover, Merzlyakov noted, according to the Lloyd Shipping Register, the Bosphorus is able to cope with growing shipping by means of modern navigational equipment and better traffic regulations. Moreover, the transportation of Caspian oil from the Black Sea ports will only slightly increase the burden on the straits. For instance, the Caspian Pipeline Consortium's project, even when it reaches its fully capacity, will add only one large tanker every 24 hours to the total number of ships passing through the straits. And not all this oil will pass through the Bosphorus -- there are quite a few plans for its further transportation through the territories of Bulgaria, Romania, and Ukraine.
He stressed the fact that the additional amounts of oil, which are to be transported by sea, will belong not only to Russia, but also to the members of the international consortiums. They include some major western companies, including several American ones. As a matter of fact, the United States also warned Turkey a short while ago that it should not take any unilateral steps, affecting the shipping regime in the straits.

Russian Deputy Minister for Fuel and Energy Vladimir Stenev, who took part in the talk, noted that Turkey was obviously "applying double standards " to this problem, since it is also using the Bosphorus waterway to bring oil from the Mediterranean Sea to the terminals on its northern coast. If they are really so seriously concerned about shipping through the straits, he added, why don't they import oil from the Russian Black Sea ports.
It is worth noting that independent American experts also believe that Turkey is exaggerating this problem. Most of them are sure that the main reason behind all this is Ankara's urge to secure the construction of the Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline.

Source: not available
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