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Regulating Navigation through the Turkish Straits: A Challenge for Modern International Environmental Law

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image of The International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law

The Turkish Straits occupy a strategic position in international commerce, as they form a vital link between the states of the Black Sea, the Mediterranean and the world beyond. This important waterway is the subject of considerable international disagreement over whether Turkey possesses the lawful right to regulate vessels carrying goods and petroleum through the straits. Turkey, whose heavily populated coastline borders both shores of the entire strait, asserts the authority to govern vessel navigation through the passageway on grounds of national sovereignty and international treaty rights. It adopted in 1994 and 1998 two special sets of shipping regulations aimed at minimising shipping accidents, avoiding collisions, and protecting the local marine environment. Russia and the other Black Sea states contend that Turkey's action contravenes the 1936 Montreux Convention, which guarantees free passage through the straits. Turkey is concerned for the safety of the local population, who might be injured by a huge maritime disaster in the strait. Russia's perspectives turn on its need to export oil by tankers through the straits. This article discusses recent relevant instruments of environmental and ocean law as they relate to straits.

Affiliations: 1: Georgetown University, Washington D.C.


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