Turkey arrested ten retired admirals on Monday after an open letter from 104 former senior marine officials. In their statement, they criticized Erdogan’s plan to build the Turkish “Suez Canal”, which may end the free passage of commercial ships through the Bosporus and the Dardanelles.
The admirals are suspected of plotting against state security and constitutional order. The Anatolia News Agency and the Khabir Turk news site reported that four other suspects had been summoned to report to the police within three days. They said the Istanbul Public Prosecution Office is investigating the case.
“Not only those who signed the speech but also those who encourage them will be accountable to the judiciary,” Erdogan’s media advisor, Fakhruddin Altun, said on Twitter, referring to the investigation.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected to discuss the issue at a rally on Monday. According to his spokesman, the open letter bore the hallmarks of a military plot to overthrow the government. “A group of retired soldiers puts themselves in a funny and miserable position with their statement that reflects the times of military coups,” he said.
The open letter was driven by Erdogan’s plan to develop a “translation channel” linking the Black Sea north of Istanbul with the Sea of Marmara in the south. The plan approved by Ankara last month is the most ambitious of what the Turkish president calls his “ crazy projects ” that have changed Turkey’s infrastructure over the past 18 years with new bridges, roads, airports and tunnels.
The new canal is vital in easing the burden on the “free” Bosphorus, an important global trade route through which more than 38,000 ships crossed last year, according to Turkish officials. The waterway between Europe and Asia is blocked by maritime traffic and has been the scene of several shipping accidents in recent years.
Opponents say experts expect the new canal to have a very harmful environmental impact and could also undermine the Montreux Agreement (1936). This agreement guarantees free passage through the Bosporus and the Dardanelles, a strait 65 kilometers long and seven kilometers wide on the borders of Asia and Europe, in peacetime and wartime. It also regulates the use of the Turkish straits by military ships coming from countries not bordering the Black Sea.
According to Turkish officials, the “Istanbul Canal” is not covered by the treaty. The new canal will allow ships to sail between the Mediterranean and the Black Seas without passing any part of the straits covered by the treaty. This raises the question of why ships choose this “oral channel” instead of the Free Bosphorus. The absolute question is whether Turkey is trying to review the treaty by banning foreign commercial ships from freely passing through the Bosporus and the Dardanelles. ”Given the elections, plans have been launched for the Istanbul Canal. In its response, the Committee stated that it would not take a position on the possible outcomes of the Montreux Convention.
In their open letter, the retired admirals described it as “alarming” to question the Montreux Treaty. Montreux gave Turkey the opportunity to be neutral during World War II. We believe that it is necessary to avoid statements and actions that call into question this treaty, which are important for the survival of Turkey. “
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