"The Istanbul Canal will be built, and it will be subject to the Montreux Convention and operate under its rules. The project will not make the convention obsolete", Ibrahim Kalin told reporters.
The ambitious project aims to ease shipping through the busy Bosporus, which is the only gateway to the oceans for Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, and Ukraine.
The canal will be dug west of Istanbul, passing through the regions of Durusu, the Sazlidere reservoir, and the Kucukcekmece Lake. The European part of Istanbul will, therefore, be turned into an island.
Turkey hopes that the canal will become an alternate waterway through which some 160 vessels pass every day. But ecologists fear it could upend the delicate balance of minerals and nutrients in both seas and destroy marine life.
The convention allows all merchant vessels to travel between the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara free of charge during peacetime. Limits exist for warships of non-Black Sea nations and during wartime.