Turkey is trying to force Greece into full-scale negotiation, experts say at Conference on delimitation of maritime zones

Turkey’s goal is to drag Greece towards a full-scale negotiation and that is why, until the Turkish elections, we are likely to have many parallel crises, estimated Deputy Minister of Education of Greece, professor of international law at Pantion University, Angelos Syrigos.


He was addressing an event of the Cyprus Bar Association and the Plenary Session of the Presidents of the Bar Associations of Greece, on the subject of “The delimitation of maritime zones in the Eastern Mediterranean”, which took place on Saturday in Nicosia.


According to Syrigos, Turkey’s challenges will manifest south of Crete, with research efforts by “Oruç Reis”, with an attempt to drill by the “Abdul Hamid” between Cyprus and Rhodes, in an effort to create a crisis in relation to the demilitarization of Greece’s eastern islands in the Aegean and a communication crisis on immigration.


Making a historical review of Turkey’s claims from the 1970s to the present day, the professor said that all the claims expressed by Turkey from time to time remain in Turkish foreign policy to be used by future generations, “whether Erdogan stays or leaves” in the upcoming elections.


He made special reference to the Turkish doctrine of the “Blue Homeland”, saying that it is not just another claim, but a strategy, which incorporates all previous claims and offers the possibility for new ones.


Turkey’s goal with regard to Greece “is to drag the country into a full-scale negotiation” he said, while for Cyprus, to confirm that hydrocarbons cannot be exploited without Turkey’s consent.


He noted that Turkey’s moves would be one step before violating international law. “They will not militarily obstruct any warship. They want us to make the first violent move. The goal is to take us to a negotiation,” he concluded.


For his part, former Minister of National Defence of Greece and Honorary Head of Hellenic National Defence General Staff, Evangelos Apostolakis, making a small historical review, noted that, while Cyprus demarcated an EEZ with Egypt, Lebanon and Israel, Greece did not proceed with corresponding moves.


He noted that the Turkish-Libyan memorandum of 2019 led to Greece’s agreement with Egypt and Italy. Although he described it as a positive step taken under the pressure of the Turkish-Libyan memorandum, Apostolakis said that “while we publicly denounce the Turkish-Libyan memorandum as irregular and illegal, at the same time we are doing everything we can to circumvent its effects”. He referred to the fact that in the agreement with Egypt a reduced influence was given to Crete, while it stopped before the 28th meridian, “so as not to disturb Turkey, which treats it as a non-negotiable point to which its jurisdiction reaches”.


He said that the discussion in the Greek government is at the level of “potential jurisdiction”. He spoke about the militarisation of Turkey’s discourse and threats regarding the casus belli in the Aegean, the threat of drilling south of Crete and east of the 25th meridian in the Aegean and the non recognition of territorial waters of the islands further than 6 nautical miles.


Remaining inactive in the face of “Turkey’s threats is wrong and only leads to the continuation of a strategic inactivity,” he noted, stressing that Greece must use its defence agreements with France and the US as tools to promote security and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean, to “be used creatively now that we need support to define the EEZ and to stop the threatening behavior of Turkey”.


He underlined the possibility of a permanent promotion of territorial waters from 6 to 12 nautical miles in Greece and said that the country should not stop reporting the casus belli.


He concluded that we are going through a period of rapid geopolitical realignments and we must “stand with international law and alliances, but be prepared for the worst possibility of war and everyone, friends and adversaries, should know it well.”


Cypriot Minister of Justice and Public Order, Stephi Drakos said that the discovery of hydrocarbons in the Eastern Mediterranean opened new horizons in Cyprus’ bilateral relations with its neighbouring countries, but also with countries that show a special interest in the Eastern Mediterranean, such as the USA, France and Italy. She noted that a decisive role was played by the conclusion of three agreements delimiting Exclusive Economic Zones, with Egypt, Israel and Lebanon, in accordance with the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.


Former Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, said that today the escalation of Turkish aggression against the sovereign rights of Greece and the Republic of Cyprus gives rise to new fears of new violations of the principles of international law but also of new tensions and this calls for immediate preventive action and clear messages from the international community and especially the EU .


With reference to the law of the sea, Tsipras said that Greece and Cyprus can and must seek the delimitation of the EEZ and continental shelf with all the neighboring countries of the Southern Mediterranean. “Greece has the right and must proceed immediately to extend its territorial waters to 12 nm in the Eastern Mediterranean”, he noted.


On his part, former Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said that the limits of our sovereignty and our sovereign rights are not arbitrary. “They are clearly defined by the international law of the sea. International law clearly defines that islands have full rights in sea zones just like land areas.”


The dialogue with Turkey is no longer meaningful, he added. “This is not a dialogue between two states that have differences and it is natural for them to discuss them. It’s more like a dialogue with a pirate trying to extract our consent to extract everything from us,” he noted. “Such consent will never be given by the Greek government”, he underlined, adding that now that Turkey is increasingly becoming an anti-Western country, it is the right time to understand that Turkey needs a different approach, without permanent appeasement and repetition of phobic reflexes.


George Papandreou, also former Prime Minister of Greece, said that it is of key importance to have our own vision and a strategy for the Eastern Mediterranean. He added that hydrocarbons can be a cause of tension, even war, or an opportunity for dialogue and strengthening stability. The discovery of natural gas in the region should be a catalyst for wider cooperation in the Southern Mediterranean and the resolution of problems, such as the Cyprus issue.


“Common interest, international law, dialogue in the framework of good neighborliness and respect for national sovereignty, European principles and decisions must be turned into our strong diplomatic weapon against any revisionism,” he concluded.


Source: Cyprus News Agency