HomeHeadlinePolitical Issues and Pseudo Wars between Greece and Türkiye

Political Issues and Pseudo Wars between Greece and Türkiye

According to the Turkey Foreign Ministry, in 1999, the Turkish-Greek relationship entered a new phase, highlighted by the introduction of numerous communication mechanisms, including regular political consultations, exploratory contacts on Aegean issues, High-Level Cooperation Council meetings, and high-level visits and contacts took places.

While seeking a resolution to long-standing issues with Greece via bilateral discussion procedures, Turkey and Greece search a way to strengthen bilateral ties in every conceivable area and places a premium on the completion of concrete initiatives for the mutual benefit of both nations. With this phase of good intention to develop relations, there are precarious issues lurking. Turkey and Greece are into pseudo wars, verbal aggression, flag wars, discourse and narrative shifts in shades of historical unresolved issues.

High-Level Cooperation Council (HLCC)

Thanks to a Turkish proposal, the High-Level Cooperation Council (HLCC) between Turkey and Greece was established in 2010. The purpose of the HLCC is to address various issues of Turkish-Greek relations at a high level, thereby contributing to progress in existing and prospective areas of cooperation and providing an “institutional” basis for Turkish-Greek relations. Four HLCC meetings have so far been conducted. The first conference was held in Athens on 14 and 15 May 2010; the second in Istanbul on 4 March 2013; the third in Athens on 6 December 2014; and the fourth and last meeting was held in Izmir on 8 March 2016. During these sessions, 54 agreements/protocols/memorandums of understanding were signed. In addition, business forums are being hosted alongside the HLCC meetings.

Additionally, high-level visits have gained traction during the last several years. On December 7 and 8, 2017, President Erdogan undertook an official visit to Greece, visiting Athens and Komotini. Since 1952, this is the first formal visit between the heads of state of Turkey and Greece.  In 2018, Foreign Ministers and other Ministers convened on the context of official visits and in the sidelines of international events. In addition, President Erdogan met with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on the sidelines of the NATO Summit on 11-12 July 2018 and the United Nations General Assembly on 25 September 2018. On February 5 and 6, 2019, Prime Minister Tsipras paid a working visit to Turkey at the request of President Erdogan. On March 21, 2019, in Antalya, H.E. Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu met with his Greek colleague Georgios Katrougalos. The Foreign Ministries have regular meetings on political matters mostly on the issues of islets.  On April 12, 2019, the last political discussions were conducted in Athens, Ministry of foreign affairs reports. Since then Turkish and Greece politicians have verbal exchange in aggressive manner that rooted in historical and political issues. The Aegean Sea had previously served as the stage for many years’ worth of recurring conflicts between the two countries that were ostensibly friends over the ownership of islands, islets, territorial seas, and airspace. These conflicts had been going on for years.

Aegean Sea Issue

Turkey and Greece are both states of Aegean Sea, share the coastal. The freedoms of the high seas and the airspace above it, which are already enjoyed by both coastal states and other parties, should not be restricted. The acquiring of additional marine regions must be fair and based on mutual consensus. Turkey claim Greece cause the problem by claiming that whole Aegean is a Greek sea, despite Turkey’s rights and interests as a coastline state. In 1936 Greece widened its territorial waters from 3 miles to 6 miles. Turkey did the same in 1964 both states created security risk. The remilitarization of the Eastern Aegean Islands placed under heavily militarized status by agreements ceding them to Greece, a 10 mile “national air space” over territorial waters of 6, abuse of the FIR responsibility as if it confers sovereignty (request of flight plazas). The issue also based on “continental shelf” that relates Turkey and Greece beyond the 6-mile territorial sea in the Aegean. Greece took the Continental shelf issue the UN Security Council and International Court of Justice; this recourse is known resolution 395 adopted in 25 August 1976. UN Security Council recommended that parties cool down the tension and call them to mutually cooperate. The International Court of Justice concluded on 11 September 1976 that the Aegean continental shelf outside the territorial seas of Turkey and Greece is “in dispute area” and both countries claim exploration and exploitation rights. In 1982, the International Court of Justice ruled that “delimitation must be done by agreement based on equitable principles and all relevant circumstances.”  Turkey and Greece signed the 1976 Bern Agreement after the ICJ judgement and Security Council resolution. Greece ended negotiations with Turkey in 1981 and began seismic and drilling activity in contested Aegean continental shelf zones. These breaches of the Bern Agreement caused the March 1987 Turkish-Greek conflict. This drilling conflict was the conclusion of Greece’s unilateral moves in the Aegean. The crisis was overcome, and the “Davos Process” led to Foreign Minister and Prime Minister summits. The procedure generated no real achievements on important concerns owing to Greek insistence that the Agenda of the discussions could not include Aegean issues. Under this Agreement, the two governments must abstain from any initiative or conduct involving the Aegean continental shelf. Both nations followed this responsibility for years, preventing the Aegean continental shelf conflict from growing into tensions and clashes. 

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The Air Space Issue

The question of air space above the Aegean Sea is another concern. International airspace covers almost half of the Aegean Sea. Greece and Turkey, both of which have coastlines along this body of water, have utilized it freely in accordance with the norms and procedures established by international law. No country claims jurisdiction over the airspace above the open ocean. The size of a country’s airspace must match the size of its territorial sea to comply with international law. This is reflected in the Chicago Convention’s first and second articles, which were written in 1944 and deal with civil aviation. At issue in the Aegean is Greece’s continual overreach in treating its responsibilities for the “Flight Information Region” as though it conferred on it some kind of sovereign powers. The technical responsibility for the Aegean FIR structure, which was developed in 1952 under the auspices of ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization), rests with ICAO. But Greece is using it to demand flight plans from Turkish state aircraft and to make complaints of “infringements of the Athens FIR,” bolstering its claims of de facto control over Aegean airspace. Greece also wrongly claims a 10-nautical-mile national airspace above a 6-nautical-mile territorial sea, in addition to its FIR duty misuse. Greece is trying to arbitrarily cut off 50% of the Aegean’s international airspace with this assertion.

The Demilitarized Status of the Eastern Aegean Islands

The question of air space above the Aegean Sea is another concern. International airspace covers almost half of the Aegean Sea. Greece and Turkey, both of which have coastlines along this body of water, have utilized it freely in accordance with the norms and procedures established by international law. No country claims jurisdiction over the airspace above the open ocean. The size of a country’s airspace must match the size of its territorial sea to comply with international law. This is represented in the Chicago Convention’s first and second articles, which were written in 1944 and deal with civil aviation. At issue in the Aegean is Greece’s continual overreach in treating its responsibilities for the “Flight Information Region” as though it conferred on it some kind of sovereign powers.  The technical responsibility for the Aegean FIR structure, which was developed in 1952 under the auspices of ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization), rests with ICAO. but Greece is using it to demand flight plans from Turkish state aircraft and to make complaints of “infringements of the Athens FIR,” bolstering its claims of de facto control over Aegean airspace. Greece also wrongly asserts a 10-nautical-mile national airspace above a 6-nautical-mile territorial sea, in addition to its FIR duty misuse. Greece is trying to arbitrarily cut off 50% of the Aegean’s international airspace with this assertion.

Kardak Crisis

The Turkish cargo tanker “Figen Akat” went aground on the easternmost point of the two islands of Imia on December 26, 1995. These islets are located barely seven kilometers (4.4 miles) away from the shore of Bodrum, which is located in Turkey.  When a Greek tugboat came to provide assistance, the captain of the Turkish vessel maintained that his vessel was already inside the territorial seas of his nation. Following the towing of the crippled vessel to a port in Turkey, the Greek captain filed a regular salvage claim, which set in motion the political machinery in Ankara, the capital of Turkey, which is located a significant distance away. Turkey and Greece started claiming the Kardak Rocks. Later, the flag wars occurred as the nearby Greeks planted Greece flag with a priest, a group from Turkey rushed to the islet ( Kardak) brought down the Greece flag and planted Turkish flag. That almost took two rival and NATO countries on the brink of the war. After a diplomatic mediation between Greece and Turkey with the mediation of the USA and EU, since then, the situation has been “cold zone” or stalemate that have potential to erupt.

Turkey believes that Greece bases the sovereignty around the islets and Kardak rocks. However, there is no binding document in the international convention to solve the Kardak crisis.  January 4th, 1932 and December 28th, 1932 Records between Turkey and Italy by virtue of the Treaty of Paris in 1947, she inherited the Italian titles in the Aegean. Noteworthy to highlight is that no “Imia Islet” is referenced in any of these sources. The Kardak Rocks are beyond the scope of the Agreement of January 4, 1932. In the Document from December 28, 1932, the Kardak Rocks were mentioned. However, the latter’s requisite legal processes were never concluded. Furthermore, the League of Nations has no record of it, as claimed by Turkey.

Recent Development and expectation

Turkey and Greece are both belong to the same security alliances, NATO, are neighbor and have diplomatic, political and historical relationship that doesn’t help to put their differences aside as manifested in the historical issue, beside that Turkey and Greece are both countries that harbors enmity that might be helpful for political parties during social and political crisis piling up that put the leaders at risks. Recently, President Erdogan called out Greece to stop violation of the air space. Many observers claim that it is Greece to escalate the tension citing that Greece has increased its defense budget to the %3. 8 more than any other member of the NATO and claim over the islets, Turkey also receive criticism over exploring gas with Abdulhamid Han drilling ship in the Imia unman island which is believed to be a source of natural resources for Turkey, Turkey for a long time is in dire need and demand to search for gas and oil in Aegean Sea to decreased its dependency on Russia.

As each time during the state of quarrelsome disagreement German leaders interfere and call for a table to resolve the issue, in 2020 Angela Merkel arbitrated with the support of the EU leaders. As French siding with Greece, Germany is neutral and impartial to bring the rivals on the diplomacy table. However, the EU as worrying over the situation in the Ukraine that is impacting on EU countries, may not be interested in resolving another conflict recurring in the Mediterranean. Turkey holds the western responsible for every crisis, Mitsokas visits to Congress and House of Representative were accepted with outstanding ovation, he finalized f 35 fighter jets, USA building military base in Greece, on the other hand, Turkey sour relationship with the United States is clear, Turkey issue of acquiring f 35, purchasing Russian built anti-aircraft missiles, Turkey transborder operation in Syria on YGP a Kurdish group supported by USA, Turkey political brawl with USA will make USA favor Greece over Turkey in future. In upcoming days, the aggression will flare up with threats, nationalist fervor, pointing fingers at each other, and if it is not resolved involving in EU diplomatically, both Mitsokas and Erdogan can escalate the long-standing issues further.

Source: Turkey Foreign Ministry. Turkey and Greece Relationship https://www.mfa.gov.tr/relations-between-turkey-and-greece.en.mfa

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Abdulmelik Alkan
Abdulmelik Alkan
Abdulmelik Alkan is a doctoral researcher focusing on Foreign Policy Analysis, South Caucus, diaspora and ethnic minorities.
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