Athens mulling options over river dispute

Athens mulling options over river dispute

Athens is reportedly considering whether to lodge a demarche with Ankara over its presentation of a section of Greek territory in the Evros border region as Turkish. 

The area in question, Melissokomeio, is near the southern part of the Evros River. It is located at a point that floods every year after the autumn and, on maps of 1923 according to which the borders were drawn, is shown as belonging to Greece. 

However, members of Turkey’s police special forces have had a steady presence in the area in recent weeks and are blocking the preparatory work of the Hellenic Army’s geographical service in view of the expansion of a border fence to the southern section of the Evros River to avoid a repeat of the scenes in March when thousands of migrants amassed at the Evros border region trying to cross into Greece from Turkey.

The surge at the border occurred after Ankara said it would not stop migrants from crossing into Europe if they wanted to, sparking tensions with Athens and Brussels. 

The dispute is not new and has arisen because the riverbed of the Evros has moved and in its place now is a swamp, which dries up in summer and floods in winter, creating an islet there. Turkey has exploited the change in the riverbed’s location to claim an area of ​​about 1.6 hectares. 

So far, Athens has sought to avoid an escalation over the issue as it does not want to create the impression that it is discussing issues that suggest possible border disputes with Ankara. 

For its part, Turkey has sought to justify its claims citing maps on digital platforms and free sources (such as Google), with which, however, as has been repeatedly shown in the past, it is virtually impossible to pinpoint clear-cut boundaries using traditional geodetic instruments.

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