Mamish: Convention of Constantinople regulates new Suez Canal – Al-Tahrir News Network

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During a visit by a delegation from the Arab Manufacturing Authority to Suez on Wednesday, Mohab Mamish, head of the Suez Canal Authority (SCA), stated that the new Suez Canal project is being executed by the Armed Forces under the supervision of the SCA.

Egyptian construction and drilling companies have been contracted to aid the Armed Forces in the project, Mamish added. This will create jobs for around a million Egyptians.

The Suez Canal (photo: ITV)

Mamish also said that the new Suez Canal project will be regulated by the Convention of Constantinople, signed in 1888.

What is the Convention of Constantinople?

The Convention of Constantinople is a 17-article treaty signed in October 1888. Nine countries signed the convention: France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Austro-Hungary, and the Russian and Ottoman empires.

The Convention of Constantinople 

When Britain took control of Egypt and Suez in the 1880s, France was still dominating the canal and controlling the majority of the shares of the SCA. France wanted to weaken British control in Egypt by trying to convince European countries of internationalising the canal.

Britain and France reached a compromise by neutralising the canal through this convention, “allowing the freedom to use the canal without discrimination against any country, during war and peace, and forbidding maritime monopoly”. Article 1 guaranteed the passage of all ships during war and peace through the Suez Canal. However, Article 1 conflicted with Article 10, which allowed the Khedive to take measures for “the defence of Egypt and the maintenance of public order”. 

This same article was used by Egypt after 1948 to defend its territories against Israel.

At the time of signing the convention, Britain accepted the treaty reluctantly: “The delegates of Great Britain, in offering this text as the definitive rule to secure the free use of the Suez Canal believe it is their duty to announce a general reservation as to the applicability of its provisions in so far as they are incompatible with the transitory and exceptional state in which Egypt is actually found and so far as they might fetter the liberty of action of the government during the occupation of Egypt by the British forces.”

France accepted the reservation, which was later removed by the entente cordiale between the two countries, and the convention finally came into force in 1904.

On 5 August 1914, at the beginning of World War I, Egypt announced that the Suez Canal would be open to ships from all countries. Britain, however, converted its occupation into a “British protectorate”, and did not allow enemy ships through the canal, citing “the security of the canal.”

The Turkish attack on the Suez Canal, on 3 February 1915 (photo: La Guerre Documentée)

The Suez Canal is a 193 km waterway that links the Red Sea with the Mediterranean Sea. Considered the most important waterway, the Suez Canal allows the passage of 40 per cent of the world’s ships through it.

The largest amount of money paid by a ship to pass through the canal was by an Italian ship on 7 September 2011. The Italian ship, carrying 59,000 tons, paid more than $2 million.