In a column for TR724, Professor Mehmet Efe Çaman has written an article that would surely shock most of his readers as he urges Turks to understand that the sovereignty of Greece’s Aegean islands are not under question. In it, the professor urges for a de-escalation of tensions between Greece and Turkey, arguing that Turkey is an expansionist power and that their cries on why Greece’s Aegean islands are militarised are not legitimate.
“In previous articles I have analyzed Turkey’s approach to the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea. Even though I received a lot of reactions, in my opinion it is important to write these. The foreign policy mentality they have, the Eurasian elements of the deep state that reached the government, can be understood from the current tough and aggressive positions of Turkey. As I have said, Turkey seems to be pursuing violations of the Lausanne Treaty. In a video leaked on social media today, Doğu Perinçek, speaking on a Ahmet Hakan show, said that issues in the Eastern Mediterranean could not be resolved through law and negotiation, but through military force and even war. Perinçek is not one of the idiots of the Islamist crew.
But, as is well known, the deeper sections of the regime, and especially the navy, have imposed on [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan and his entourage the expansive position of the so-called “Blue Homeland”, which undermines the Treaty of Lausanne. If we pay attention to the sounds that come from deep, we perceive the rhythms of the drums of war. Erdoğan realizes that his electoral base, in such an environment of economic problems, financial difficulties and decline, will not think about these but will dive into the neo-Ottoman dreams. In fact, even the regime parties of the so-called opposition, strongly defend this expansionist rhetoric about the Blue Homeland
As I mentioned, I wrote the truth in my writings, as according to the texts of international law – with the Treaty of Lausanne first – the rhetoric and positions of Turkey are a deviation from the status quo and are far from the line of logic. Those who tried to answer me through social media, most of them are people who try to protect Turkey and support its current expansionist trend. One of their common arguments is that Greece, in violation of the Treaty of Lausanne, equipped islands in the eastern Aegean. Although these issues are very technical, they need to be summarized to inform people. The deeper we go, the more information we need.
An approach from the axis of law and injustice of the type “But the Aegean is a big sea! Let’s divide it into two equal parts” is really cut off from reality! And from justice as well. The sovereign rights and borders of states are one of the most important issues in international relations and international law. The sovereign rights of Greece in the Aegean islands are unquestionable. What Turkey perceives as a problem is the proximity of some Greek islands to the coast of Anatolia. But that does not change the reality. Except for Imbros and Tenedos, the Princes’ Islands and all the islands and islets located at a distance of three miles from Anatolia, all the other islands and islets belong to Greece. Some cafe conversations might say “But this is too much!”
Land without owner, whether it is land or island, is no different, they do not belong to you. Perfect! The delivery of these islands to Greece was done with international conditions. Nor is it an incident that happened yesterday. The Treaty of Lausanne was signed in 1923 and the islands remained in Greece.
The Dodecanese belonged to Italy. When Italy lost the Second World War, in the Treaty of Paris, these islands passed to Greece. Turkey did not object to this, nor was there any legal ground for such a thing. That is why Turkey did not even feel the need to send a delegation to Paris.
Let us now note the following. The islands as well as the mainland have rights to the continental shelf, territorial waters and the Exclusive Economic Zone. Turkey does not accept this. Okay but that doesn’t matter. Because there is a rule in international law. This is stated in the Maritime Law Convention of 1983. Yes, Turkey did not sign it and that is why it does not bind it.
But this is also an oral rule of international law. Moreover, the non-recognition of this situation of the islands does not change anything. This is the status quo. Greece will never accept the change of the status quo. The situation is similar to that after 1945, when the Soviets were seeking bases in the Straits, while they were also seeking Kars and Ardahan. Why did Turkey not accept those requests? Because Turkey was right!
So even today Greece is right on the issue of the status quo and the rights of the Aegean islands.
Let us come to the issue of the equipment of the Aegean islands. When did Greece do this? After the establishment of the Aegean army by Turkey! What is the reason that Turkey, outside the framework of NATO, established the Aegean army?
This is an army that is directed against Greece. This is the first reason.
And the second reason why Greece equipped the Aegean islands, is that after the landing in Cyprus in 1974, suddenly as if it had fallen from the sky, Aegean issues began to be brought to the fore. And yet the so-called Aegean issues did not exist before 1950.
After 1950, the Democratic Party began to pursue a more active foreign policy. For this reason, Cyprus became one of the most basic playing fields. When after 1974 Turkey did not withdraw its military presence from Cyprus and did not restore what was imposed by the constitution of the Republic of Cyprus, Greece became concerned. And even more so when the [illegal and unrecognized] Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was set up by direction of the coup generals in the early 1980’s, Turkey has now become a full-fledged invader under international law.
Today we denounce the Russian invasion and integration of Crimea by Russia, right? But this is exactly Turkey’s position in Cyprus.
Turkey, which since 1974 has intervened in its capacity as a guarantor state under the London and Zurich treaties that granted it that status, has not done what it should. And yet the official purpose of the intervention was to neutralize the coup that Nikos Sampson had done together with the members of EOKA. That was the excuse. In other words, to restore the Constitution of Cyprus! To ensure constitutional order on the island! Because those conditions did not allow Turkey to occupy and divide Cyprus.
In these circumstances, Greece feared that Turkey would follow a similar behavior in the Aegean and Greece equipped the islands to ensure their minimal defense. What will Greece equip? The Greek army is there to protect its own islands. Looking at the current stance of the expansionist regime in Ankara, can you say that this move by Greece was unnecessary? Turkey today publicly declares that it does not recognize the sovereignty of its neighboring country. If under these circumstances Greece could not defend its islands, in your opinion would not this be a threat to its territorial integrity?
See international politics moving forward with actions and reactions. Turkey has taken action and now a reaction to it is inevitable. Turkey after 1974, not withdrawing its army from Cyprus, made a change in the status quo. This is the action. While Greece in response equipped its islands in the Aegean, Turkey has held 40% of another country’s territory militarily since 1974. Is there any inconvenience I say? I’m sorry but this is the truth.
In fact, with the Annan Plan (withdrawal of troops from the island and reunification of Cyprus), the current rulers in Ankara had tacitly accepted this.
Now Perinçek has clearly expressed the wishes of the team he represents. What does it mean? He declares that this story is solved by war! Do you agree with that? If your answer is yes, then I have bad news for you. This is not patriotism. This is called expansionism.
The foundation of the theme is the fine line between good and evil. Today, Turkey is strengthening the foundations of the order laid by Lausanne. If Greece did that, Ankara would have to defend the Lausanne Treaty with all its might. For what reason; Because it is Lausanne that invalidated the Treaty of Sevres!
If Lausanne does not exist then the Treaty of Sevres applies. Turkey seems to be crammed into the Lausanne text, but it is the guarantee of its existence. But he does not think at all what is the alternative to this text. Forgive me but this is a position not very smart. In addition, it is a legally and morally weak position. And most importantly, it is a dangerous place.
Why? For the territorial integrity that Turkey says it values so much.
I hope that the rioters in Ankara and some adventurous second-class officers with profiles like Enver Pasha do not set the country on fire.”
Mehmet Efe Çaman