Turkey, by taking coordinated steps, appears to be preparing for its next moves in the Eastern Mediterranean. On the one hand it is setting the ground for a continental shelf determination with Libya, while on the other it pens a letter to the UN that leaves open the possibility of claiming maritime zones and the west region of Rhodes up to Crete.
On Wednesday night, Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with the internationally recognized Libyan President Fayez al-Saraaj, the head of the Tripoli-based government backed by Ankara. The Turkish president reached an initial agreement on the maritime region with Libya, a move which will have a negative impact on Greece.
“The (security) agreement establishes educational co-operation, shapes out the legal framework and strengthens ties between our armed forces”, Turkish Presidency Communications Director Fahrettin Altun tweeted.
A statement issued by Altun’s office stated that the two countries had signed a memorandum of understanding on “the establishment of maritime jurisdictions” aimed at protecting the two countries’ rights under international law.
Mevlut Cavusoglu announced that “talks were held with Libya and an agreement was signed on the underwater wealth and the delimitation of maritime zones. What this means is that Turkey is protecting its rights under international law”.
The Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs left open the possibility of negotiating with Greece on the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean, always through the Turkish prism of interpreting events.
“We support a fair distribution of wealth either in the Eastern Mediterranean or in the Aegean, protecting as always our rights under international law. This also applies to stocks around Cyprus. We always argue that fair distribution of wealth must be guaranteed here between the Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot sides in Cyprus and in fields beyond our continental shelf. Our position endorses fair sharing by working with everyone on the delimitation of these maritime zones in the Eastern Mediterranean. If some countries do not support such an approach, that will be their problem. From now on we will continue to have this kind of talks with other countries, as long as the proper ground is there”, Cavusoglu stressed.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs immediately reacted to Ankara’s moves and statements. “The signing of a memorandum of understanding between Turkey and Libya cannot violate the sovereign rights of third countries. Such a move would grossly violate International Law of the Sea, and would have no legal effect. In addition, such an action would not be in line with the principle of good neighborliness that should govern relations between neighboring countries”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Alexandros Gennimatas responded.
Amid those movements from the Turkish side, Turkey filed a letter to the United Nations on November 13th, claiming rights west of Rhodes!
The Permanent Representative of Turkey to the UN, Feridun Sinirlioğlu, sent the letter, which differentiates this one from most the previous ones sent by Ankara, claiming rights to maritime zones even west of the 28th meridian and questioning not only the influence of the Kastelorizo complex, but also of the Dodecanese.
With this letter, Turkey reserves its rights to deposit further geographical coordinates of the Turkish continental shelf “west of the 28th Meridian, which extend as far as the territorial waters of the islands off the coast in the Mediterranean, given that the characteristics of the islands in that maritime area cannot interfere with or disrupt the projection of the Turkish coastline or continental shelf”.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded to those positions by Turkey as well, by noting that “the Turkish claims and the references to specific coordinates are legally unfounded, incorrect and arbitrary, in so far as they violate Greece’s sovereign rights in the region.
Greece rejects the illegal Turkish claims and reserves the right to answer properly.
Consequently, this letter, as it appears contrary to the International Law of the Sea, is rejected in its entirety and does not have any legal effect on Greek sovereign rights.
It is time for Turkey to finally revise its stance and comply with the requirements of International Law of The Sea, for the sake of stability and co-operation in the region”. /ibna