Turkey Is One Step Closer to Accessioning the Svalbard Treaty

The Svalbard Treaty was signed on the 9th of February 1920. The treaty secures Norwegian sovereignty over Svalbard and the surrounding sea areas, but also includes certain outlines on equal treatment of the citizens and companies of the treaty's countries, taxation, and military activity. (Photo: Arne O. Holm).

Turkey's president Erdoğan has signed a bill on the country's accession to the Svalbard Treaty. The bill will be processed in the parliament's general assembly in the coming days.

The Foreign Affairs Committee of the Turkish parliament recently approved a bill on Turkey's accession to the Svalbard Treaty. This is reported by the Turkish newspaper Hürriyet Daily News, among others.

In July, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan signed the bill and it will be processed in the parliament's national assembly in the coming days, according to the newspaper.

When asked what Turkey's interest in Svalbard and the Svalbard treaty is about, Eda Ayaydin, Teaching Fellow at the University of London Institute in Paris, says that Turkey's Ministry of Foreign Affairs is noticing other countries' interest in Svalbard and them wanting to be party to the Treaty, for example, due to fishery rights. 

"Turkey does not have any established Arctic policy to be in the region, the reason again is simply 'to be there'", Ayaydin previously wrote in an op-ed published in HNN.

Another important point to consider, according to Ayaydin, is that there are no mention of climate change endeavors from the officials regarding the region. They are mostly emphasizing the material interests such as hydrocarbon resource exploitation or owning property in Svalbard. This is because of the lack of focus on the Arctic in Turkish politics, she writes in an e-mail to High North News. 

The Svalbard Treaty

The Svalbard Treaty, also known as the Paris Treaty, was signed on the 9th of February in 1920 in Paris by several countries on the matter of the Svalbard archipelago. 

The treaty was drawn up in connection with the peace conferences which followed World War I. 

It was not until 1925 that the treaty's provisions of Norwegian sovereignty over the archipelago were added to Norwegian law through the Svalbard Act, which regulates Norway's exercise of sovereignty and authority on Svalbard.

The treaty establishes "Norway's complete and unrestricted sovereignty over the Svalbard archipelago".

The treaty gives Norway sovereignty over Svalbard; Spitsbergen and the surrounding islands Bjørnøya and Hopen.

The treaty countries nevertheless have "equal rights to fish and harvesting" in these areas and their territorial waters.

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This article was originally published in Norwegian and has been translated by Birgitte Annie Molid Martinussen.