Greek Defence Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos spoke about “new sources of wealth,” at his meeting with his Israeli counterpart earlier this week the only thing is that in order to obtain them Athens has to finally take the decision and proceed with claiming its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). (Greece is
entitled to claim its EEZ as per UNCLOS 1982 as well as customary
What is preventing Greece from doing so? Let’s be frank, it is fear of a serious Turkish attack. The “bullying” we witnessed a little less than two months ago off the coast of Cyprus against the divided island was indeed serious but only a small sample of what might happen if Greece decides to proceed with its EEZ in the Aegean sea. Even so, this is not an excuse for the unacceptable delay of the present government to exercise our nation’s legal right.
So where is Ankara most sensitive on this issue? Answer: Kastelorizo island. This is the
one of the areas where it is expected that Turkey will pull all the
stops, and where all of us can expect a negative reaction. The island is
a “thorn” to Turkey;s plans to delimitate its Exclusive Economic Zone
so that it can connect with that of Egypt. Over the past few days it was
reported that Egypt is in favor of the Turkish move, but this means
that for this to happen the island of Kastelorizo has to totally be
wiped off the map. You can’t just ignore an island with many residents
and pretend that it does not exist, and it is here that a conflict will
ignite because Greece will only do what any nation does when it is
invaded, it will react.
On its part Turkey says that its declaration of casus belli against Greece is not
related to the EEZ issue and actually claims that the Aegean Sea’s
status as a semi-closed sea, affords it a “special nature” (unlike other
semi-closed seas as the Adriatic or even fully enclosed seas as the
Black Sea). bla bla bla bla bla….
Nonetheless anything Turkey says cannot stand legally because Turkey is not among the signatories of UNCLOS which allows countries to expand the width of their territorial waters up to 12 nautical miles (22 km).
Let us explain. Even though Turkey is a persistent objector to the relevant article of UNCLOS, it has expanded its own territorial waters in the Black Sea to 12 nautical miles (22 km). And moreover, in 1995 just after Greek parliament ratifications of UNCLOS (as every signatory state was entitled), Turkey declared that if Greece expands the width of her territorial waters over 6 nautical miles (11 km), Turkey would conceive this action as a containment attempt and a direct offense to her sovereignty and thus threatened Greece with a war (casus belli).
Is this a “flip-flop” statement or what? Turkey threatens us with a casus belli, but wants to totally wipe Kastelorizo’s existence off the map illegally! Maybe our leaders should see it as a containment attempt and a direct offense to our sovereignty!
According to published maps, the Israeli government has recognized the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) of Greece and Cyprus. They describe the course of the gas pipeline which will transfer gas produced by American Νoble Εnergy Ltd. from the Leviathan reservoir to Europe, through an undersea pipeline crossing Greece. The gas pipeline should traverse the sea area, which according to international law, is part of the Greek EEZ.
By this proposal, Israel recognizes the Greek EEZ in the area and offers an advantage that Greece can use during negotiation procedures to support its claims on the area. In practice, this cooperation will set up a powerful energy coalition between Greece, Cyprus and Israel. The mining and operating part will be undertaken by an American company.
With this in mind, there is nothing stopping Greece from moving on this immediately. The dramatic delay (which could have been on purpose) and indecisiveness of the Greek government is almost criminal and and has added yet another thorn to the whole issue. Nonetheless this in no way can prevent Greece from defending its position and rights if and when push comes to shove.
Luckily for us, our legal arguments are strong and that is why military experts claim that Turkey will attempt a rather unorthodox and violent way to show her refusal, disrupting the wider region and causing a severe crisis in the wider Mediterranean that will place Greece into an international position to discuss and negotiate these rights.
In such a case, Greece must set where its red lines are in advance and not negotiate (and/or compromise) them at all because the stakes are immense and their outcome will be of great importance for our nation’s future.