Angelos Stangos ANGELOS STANGOS

In dealing with Turkey, resorting to the international court maybe the only path

COMMENT

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis (r) shakes hands with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (l) after the NATO Summit in London, Wednesday.

TAGS: Security, Defense, Turkey

There’s probably no point in arguing about the past anymore – that is, who said what regarding Greek-Turkish relations, who took action and who didn’t, or who adopted the most appropriate Turkey policy.

The same applies to those who supposedly warned about the rapidly approaching danger which now poses a direct threat to Greece’s sovereign rights. It is perhaps worth acknowledging that the political elites, society and the media had their heads in the sand as they chose to believe that Ankara’s words and actions were designed for domestic consumption. Meanwhile, the balance of power was tilting against Greece for a number of reasons.

Turkey’s policy of questioning Greece’s sovereign rights reached a climax following the submission to the United Nations of the coordinates of the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), as determined by Ankara, and the publication of the relevant map on Sunday.

The key political and technical elements are as follows: 1. Ankara fails to recognize the Republic of Cyprus’ right to an EEZ at the same time as it recognizes the same right to the breakaway state in the occupied north of the Eastern Mediterranean island. 2. It does not want to accept a common boundary between the EEZs of Greece and Cyprus (that said, Greece has, paradoxically, refrained from lodging the coordinates of its EEZ as it deems proper). 3. It expands the claim, which has been put forward since the 1970s, that islands have no continental shelf or EEZ. It should be noted here that Turkey has signed neither the convention on the continental shelf nor the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The Erdogan regime has clearly decided to pursue a policy of power projection in a bid to consolidate Turkey as a regional power and impose its sovereignty across the whole region. Instability and volatility across the globe, combined with Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s determination to move forward even if that entails human casualties, serve this particular policy. So the question is: What can Greece do to protect its sovereign rights and interests which are (unquestionably) at serious risk? Meanwhile, Ankara wants to either hold bilateral talks on its own terms while having the upper hand, or proceed to conflict.

First of all, regardless of what decision is taken in Athens, it will first of all require a national strategy, as no government can take crucial – and, to some degree, painful – decisions alone, and secondly, that Greece publish its EEZ coordinates.

From then on, given that Greece naturally wants to avoid conflict, the only realistic course of action is launching a long-term high-intensity international campaign across all fora to force Turkey to accept a settlement on the basis of an international court ruling. It will not be easy, because this is something that Ankara wants to avoid, but Turkey will hopefully come under international pressure.

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