Tom Ellis TOM ELLIS

Maps, maritime zones and islands

COMMENT

TAGS: Diplomacy, Politics, Turkey, EU

Ankara’s recent publication of a map that appears to split the Aegean Sea in two was yet another sign of Turkish aggressiveness. Like previous naval maneuvers, fighter jet overflights and verbal threats, the map is seen as an unacceptable and deplorable action of the sort that undermines any prospects for dialogue between the two sides.

Greek complaints that there can be no dialogue under threat have mostly been met with understanding from the international community. The European Union, the United States and the NATO alliance have spoken of “calculated provocations” and “regrettable actions,” while noting that any disputes must be resolved peacefully on the basis of dialogue and the provisions of international law.

That said, what the agenda of the negotiations supported by the international community will be is something that needs to be made clear. Apart from the vaguer calls for dialogue and peaceful solutions, there are also repeated specific references to maritime zones. It is important that these targeted remarks continue.

It is natural for neighboring states to have differences regarding maritime zones; there are many examples where countries held talks that led to a settlement.

A recent example is the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) delineation agreement between Greece and Egypt. At tomorrow’s summit between Greece, Cyprus and Egypt in Nicosia it is likely that there will be references to the deal that was recently ratified by the two countries.

With respect to maritime zone disputes, Greece – the present government, almost all the political parties and society at large – are all for respecting international law. It goes without saying that this primarily implies respect for the decisions of international courts. Hence, if we fail to reach an agreement with Turkey and end up taking recourse to The Hague, we will accept its ruling even if it is not what we wished for. This is a development most reasonable people are prepared for.

What we cannot do – and this must be made clear to our partners and allies so that they can formulate their stance accordingly – is negotiate Greek sovereignty over the Aegean islands or the right to defend them in the face of Turkey’s blatant aggression.

If Greece’s relations with Turkey were on the same level as relations with Italy – Athens and Rome recently demarcated EEZ boundaries in a friendly and civilized manner showing the necessary “flexibility” – then we would not feel the need to safeguard the western Aegean islands.

Zakynthos, Ithaca and Corfu do not require increased security forces for the very simple reason that they are not under threat.

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