Turkey provokes again: Aegean islands should be de-militarised

12 May 2019
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Turkey continued its belligerent stance and aggressive rhetoric against Greece and Cyprus in relation to oil drilling in the Cypriot Exclusive Economic Zone (EZZ) and the eastern Mediterranean.

An official announcement issued by the Turkish Foreign Ministry, on Sunday, calling on Greece to “Greece to put an end to its policy of disregarding international law, historical facts and Turkey’s legitimate rights and interests, and to forgo its efforts to create de facto situations.”
The announcement reiterates the Turkish position that the islands in the Eastern Aegean Sea should be demilitarised in accordance with the 1923 Lausanne Treaty.

Greece has repeatedly said that the defence of its territories was a right stemming from International Law.

The full announcement reads:

While the Aegean disputes between Greece and Turkey are actually being addressed through bilateral channels, the attempts of Greece, our neighbour and Ally, to abuse international organizations, including NATO, and draw them into these disputes with the aim of justifying her national positions are not new. The responses of the Greek Ministers of National Defence and Foreign Affairs to a question posed by a member of the Greek parliament constitutes yet another example for such futile attempts on the part of Greece.

The Eastern Aegean islands were put under demilitarized status by virtue of several international agreements, including the Treaty of Lausanne of 1923 and the Treaty of Paris of 1947. These Treaties prohibit the militarization of the Eastern Aegean islands. They are in force, and thus, are legally binding for Greece, imposing legal responsibilities on this country.

NATO civilian and military authorities are bound by the Alliance’s policy of refraining from involvement in bilateral disputes between Allies and have faithfully been acting on this basis. This is also the case for the NATO Activity in the Aegean Sea. At the time when this Activity was initiated, all Allies, including Greece, agreed that the NATO Activity in the Aegean Sea would be carried out in a manner that does not prejudice NATO Allies’ national policies.

In line with this collective understanding, it was agreed that the military vessels operating in the Aegean Sea under the NATO Activity would refrain from visiting the Aegean islands under demilitarized status according to international law, including with the aim of refuelling or port visits. Moreover, these vessels may only operate in the Aegean Sea on the basis of diplomatic clearances issued concurrently by Turkey and Greece for specified areas at sea.

That being the case, Greece’s claims that the NATO activity in the Aegean sea has rendered Turkey’s legitimate position that is fully in accordance with international law “de facto invalid” are in vain. The NATO Activity is being carried out to support the efforts to stem irregular migration due to humanitarian concerns, upon Turkey’s consent.

On this occasion, we once again renew our call to Greece to put an end to its policy of disregarding international law, historical facts and Turkey’s legitimate rights and interests, and to forgo its efforts to create de facto situations.

We would like to reiterate the fact that bilateral issues between our two countries can only be resolved through mutually constructive approaches and common endeavours and that Turkey carries the necessary will to this end. We maintain our expectation that Greece can also act in the same vein.

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