On Sunday, 103 retired Turkish admirals published a letter highlighting the need for the country to stay in the Montreux convention amid plans to build a huge canal on the edge of Istanbul, which would not be covered by the treaty. In addition, the letter spoke in favor of keeping the current constitution against the backdrop of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s calls for a new basic law.
The admirals also criticised the military top brass for alleged departure from the path outlined by Turkish founding father Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. On Monday, media reported that 10 of the retired admirals had been detained.
"If there is a coup attempt or a hint of it — certainly, we all will oppose it. Our party is ready to stand against any coup attempt. But Montreux is the issue of admirals, sailors. If they do not make statements on this topic, then who will? The imam of the Hagia Sophia Mosque? Those who speak about freedom of speech detain admirals, accusing them of an attempted coup for expressing their concern about the interests of our country," Muharrem Ince, the Homeland Movement leader and Erdogan’s key challenger in the 2018 election, wrote on Twitter.
CHP deputy leader Engin Ozkoc described the detentions as a "shameful day for Turkey."
"We have seen these games before. Patriots will not bow their heads," Ozkoc tweeted.
Parliament speaker Mustafa Sentop, Vice President Fuat Oktay, Presidency Communications Director Fahrettin Altun, Erdogan spokesman Ibrahim Kalin and several ministers, meanwhile, have all condemned the admirals’ petition.
The Ankara prosecutor's office has launched a probe into the letter.
The Montreux Convention was adopted in 1936 and guarantees the freedom of passage through the straits for merchant ships of all countries, both in peacetime and in wartime. However, the rules of the passage of warships are different for the Black Sea states and others. For the warships of the non-Black Sea powers, the treaty envisages significant restrictions on class and duration of stay.
According to Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, the Istanbul Canal project's aim is not for Turkey to abandon the convention.