The escalation of tensions in the Greek-Turkish relations through a chain of NAVTEX issuances by Turkey for the explorations of the Oruc Reis drillship in the Eastern Mediterranean are directly related to the ardent desire of Turkey to lead the settlement of the Greek-Turkish disputes in dialogue.
Turkey’s plan to engage in dialogue with Greece and find common ground for cooperation is not something new. All this, of course, it seeks to do it on its own terms, which means that it wants to have the first and the last say in any kind of cooperation.
Having managed to disconnect Cyprus and the Cyprus issue from any discussion with Greece by focusing on areas related to Greek territory, but also as a result of the choice of the Mitsotakis administration to sail away from Greece’s firm position towards Cyprus, Turkey is delimiting the dialogue through the imprint it leaves behind in areas not bordered by Greece in the Eastern Mediterranean. Besides, as far as Cyprus is concerned, Turkey is acting illegally as there exists a demarcated EEZ; with Greece, on the other hand, it is provoking without crossing the illegality line, as Greece and many in the international community like to argue by speaking of disputed waters.
By carefully observing Turkey’s movements through the Oruc Reis drillship, the disputed areas concern areas not demarcated by Greece or whose sovereign rights have not been exercised (extension from 6 to 12 nm).
While the Turkish research vessel is indeed violating the unrestricted sovereign rights of Greece in Kastelorizo between 6 and 12 n.m., it is in fact respecting the limits of the EEZ Delimitation Agreement between Greece and Egypt, although it considers the agreement to be legally unfounded.
The reason behind those decisions is simple. Turkey almost always acts within the bounds of legality or alternatively in the way it wishes to interpret international law. Although it argues that it does not recognize the Greek-Egyptian EEZ demarcation, it stays away from it for two reasons; firstly, because it is legal and the country is fully aware of that, regardless of whether or not it decides to recognize that publicly; secondly, because the terms of the Agreement are in Turkey’s interest in case of a future demarcation with Greece.
Turkey is actually acting as a good lawyer who is making full use of the law to win the lawsuit, regardless of whether their client is right or wrong.
This is what Turkey is doing right now. It does this with the Oruc Reis sailings, while strengthening at the same time its argument in the event of an appeal to the International Court of Justice. The occasional publication of maps and corresponding cases with the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean are not accidental, but are rather aimed at strengthening its negotiating arms.
Turkey wishes dialogue and is shaping the agenda. Greece’s hasty demarcations with Italy and Egypt perfectly set the ground for Turkey to claim more than it could otherwise get.
The statements of both Erdogan and Cavusoglu, immediately after the signing of the Delimitation Agreement between Greece and Italy, calling on Greece to conclude a corresponding Agreement with them and engage in unconditional dialogue, are not coincidental.
The efforts by the Turkish side, which exerted pressure in every way in an effort for direct talks with Greece to commence, were thoroughly planned, with Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ refusal to accept them remaining a mystery, resulting to the German initiative and everything that came with it.
The reviving American effect in the region should also be pointed out.
According to exclusive information from IBNA, there is currently a plan on the table for the Greek-Turkish dispute to be resolved through a process of economic cooperation, with the help of the United States.
The “Do it like Kosovo and Israel” scenario for the normalization of Greek-Turkish relations is gaining more ground. The successful Kosovo-Serbia agreements and those between Israel and the Arab countries are showing the way.
Despite Turkey’s refusal to admit it, it is in fact contemplating the proposal. Greece will do what it is told, that is for sure, as long as the Greek Prime Minister is not caught by surprise, much like Aleksandar Vucic during the signing of the Belgrade-Pristina Economic Normalization Agreement, when he was trying to find out whether he had signed the transfer of the Serbian Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Yet it remains to be seen whether this plan will be green-lit, as no one knows what will happen in the event of a change of leadership in the United States.
Turkey will continue to provoke by pushing for dialogue. It will flirt with the borders of the Greek Government in an effort to drag it into a dialogue that it is already delimiting.
It does not want war. This is clear as well. Even the casus belli constitutes nothing but another point of pressure, as according to a senior Turkish official there are no military options in the casus belli either, since he claims it represents Turkey’s reaction to the decision of the Greek Parliament to transfer to the Greek Government the jurisdiction to extend its territorial waters. Military action is not mentioned at any point in the Turkish National Assembly’s decision. Even there, Turkey is pursuing dialogue and not a unilateral decision to expand territorial waters without dialogue, the Turkish official concluded in an off-the-record discussion two weeks ago in Istanbul. /ibna