Turkey refuses maximalist imposition in East Med as Greece points to top U.N. court

Turkey will not allow for Greece’s imposition of maximalist claims on Turkey over the European Union with regards to claim to a continental shelf and territorial waters off the coast of its Kastellorizo, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Tuesday.

“You don’t get to cut off Turkey’s access to high seas and to its own maritime zones,” Çavvuşoğlu said in an article penned for Greek daily Kathimerini  as the island in question lies 2 km off of the Turkish shore, and 580 km from mainland Greece.

“No law nor logic nor a basic sense of fairness would allow an opposite argument,” the Turkish foreign minister said.

Turkey, Cyprus and Greece have been locked in escalating tensions since last year when Turkish vessels set out to explore for hydrocarbons in what is currently recognised as Cypriot and Greek exclusive economic zones in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Ankara maintains that Cypriot Turks, who control the northern third of the island in a breakaway state only recognized by Turkey, are entitled to a portion of the island’s maritime natural resources, and that Greece’s claim to territorial waters in the Aegean and Mediterranean seas are unlawfully limiting rights for Turkey, which has the longest shoreline to the seas in question among all neighbouring countries.

Turkey will maintain its naval presence in the region for defensive ends, Çavuşoğlu wrote,  as the country continues with hydrocarbon exploration in the region it deems is its own continental shelf, “that was declared in accordance with international law as far back as 16 years ago, by the way!”

Turkey expects Greece “to revive all dialogue channels with Turkey without any preconditions,” he added, warning that Ankara “could come up with quite a few’’ of its own.

The minister called for good faith, peaceful negotiation and “strong, effective and rational leadership in order to hand down peace and security to future generations,” while condemning France for its naval involvement in the conflict as an “ill-advised yearning for their colonial past.”

Turkey is prepared to “go whichever way Greece chooses,” Çavuşoğlu said. “The choice is in fact not that of Turkey nor France nor anyone else for that matter but of the esteemed leaders and people of Greece.”

Çavuşoğlu’s Kathimerini article coincided with that of his Greek counterpart, Nikos Dendias, who called Turkey’s actions in the Eastern Mediterranean “illegal,” saying that the country violated Greece’s sovereign rights.

“We are ready to restart the dialogue that will lead to negotiations in order to resolve this dispute or to refer it to the International Court of Justice in The Hague,” Dendias said.

The Greek claims to sovereign rights in maritime zones are “neither a product of an individual perception of law nor do they vary according to the correlation of size and power between states,” he added.

“Greece is threatened with war by Turkey if it exercises the right to extend its territorial waters to 12 nautical miles, in violation of fundamental principles of the UN Charter,” the minister said.

Turkey’s “insistence on faits accomplis” undermines trust between the two neighbours, he said, and that sovereign rights in maritime zones “are stipulated clearly and equally for all states by the customary and conventional law of the sea, which is binding for all states. Like it or not.”