Greek diplomacy continued in “overdrive” mode over the weekend, days after Ankara abruptly announced the signing of a MoU with the weak Tripoli-based interim government to delineate exclusive economic zones between the Turkey and Libya by essentially “erasing” Greece’s Dodecanese islands and even large Crete off the east Mediterranean’s map.
The agreement, signed and announced by Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul, in fact, met with anger and derision in Athens, as the latest instance of “Turkography” is judged by diplomatic and political circles in Athens as a “Grand Bazaar”-type of diplomacy, i.e. exorbitant demands in order to gain something in whatever future negotiations, ones that Ankara wants outside the framework of international law. Turkey is one of a handful of countries in the world, and the only EU member or candidate-state, that has not signed the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and instead, interprets international maritime law and treaties based on its own national interests.
Speaking in Cairo on Sunday, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias told reporters after his 45-minute meeting with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry that both countries consider the memorandum signed by Turkey and the chairman of Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA), Fayez al-Sarraj, as lacking whatever legal basis.
Dendias added that both sides also consider that al-Sarraj many not even have the jurisdiction to sign any such a memorandum.
“No matter, however, such actions are factors of destabilization for the wider region, we will continue to monitor the situation,” he said.
The Turkish response came hours later by Turkey’s foreign affairs ministry spokesman, Hami Aksoy, who first said that the agreement with the Libyan side was based on “court decisions” and international law, including “relevant articles” of UNCLOS.
He then repeated that Ankara has called for negotiations “in response to Turkey’s international law and equity-based approach”
The entire Turkish reaction reads:
“By the agreement signed with Libya, a part of the western borders of our maritime jurisdiction areas in the Eastern Mediterranean is delimited. The agreement is in accordance with the court decisions that create the international jurisprudence and international law including the relevant articles of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
All parties are in essence aware that islands cannot have a cut-off effect on the coastal projection of Turkey, the country with the longest continental coast line in Eastern Mediterranean, that the islands which lie on the opposite side of the median line between two mainlands cannot create maritime jurisdiction areas beyond their territorial waters and that the length and direction of the coasts should be taken into account in delineating maritime jurisdiction areas. As a matter of fact, prior to the signing of the said agreement, Turkey has repeatedly invited all parties to negotiations for a consensus-based on equity and remains ready for negotiations. However, instead of engaging in negotiations in response to Turkey’s international law and equity-based approach, the parties only preferred to take unilateral steps and try to shift the blame on Turkey. Maximalist and uncompromising Greek and Greek Cypriot claims lie behind this understanding, whereas for example, Kastellorizo, a small island immediately across the Turkish mainland is supposed to generate a maritime jurisdiction area of four thousand times larger than its own surface. This understanding caused Egypt to lose an area of 40.000 square kilometers.
Through this agreement with Libya, the two countries have clearly manifested their intention not to allow any fait accomplis.”