Flawed negotiations

Secrecy is often a necessary tool in diplomacy but it has its limits. In Greek-Turkish negotiations this limit has been exceeded. After almost 10 years of secrecy, the minimum democratic duty of the government should be to inform Parliament about its negotiations with Ankara. Officially these talks are focusing on the delineation of the continental shelf, but in reality there are many more topics being discussed. After all, the delineation of the continental shelf presupposes the settling of two other problems that Turkey has created. The first is the expansionist theory of the so-called «gray zones.» From the start, I have supported the position that Athens should have demanded that Turkey formally abandon this theory as a precondition for the start of bilateral talks. How is it possible to discuss the delineation of the continental shelf when Turkey is staking a claim not just to an unspecified number of rocky outcrops that belong to Greece but also inhabited islands? Ankara’s stance is not contradictory considering that it is pursuing a far-reaching political agreement. Instead, it is Athens that has adopted a contradictory stance on this issue given that, officially at least, it is seeking a solution based on international law. The second problem is the Turkish threat of war, often referred to as «casus belli,» should Greece exercise its legal right to extend its territorial waters to 12 nautical miles. According to press reports that have never been denied, Athens is negotiating based on a position whereby the extent of its territorial waters will vary. In other words, in areas that are far from Turkey, Greece’s territorial waters will stretch to the full 12 miles, in areas close to Turkish shores Greece will only take 6 miles, while in areas that are deemed to be somewhere in between the two the waters will extend from 8 to 10 miles. However, in areas that are some distance from Turkey, such as the Ionian islands, Greece’s territorial waters could have been extended to 12 miles already without any fear of reprisals or complaints from Ankara. The fact that the extension of territorial waters has become a subject of negotiation with Ankara is a compromise by Greece. It will be a major compromise if, under the threat of the casus belli clause, the government agrees to limit Greek territorial waters in the Aegean. We should note two things: Firstly, the extension of territorial waters by 12 nautical miles would cancel out the core of Turkey’s expansionist challenges to a great extent. Secondly, all Mediterranean countries have territorial waters of 12 miles, including Turkey in its northern and southern shores.

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