Response to Rozakis point by point - Kastellorizo, territorial waters and gray zones

Ω Stavros Lygeros
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Response to Rozakis point by point - Kastellorizo, territorial waters and gray zones, Stavros Lygeros

The Mitsotakis-Erdogan telephone conversation was enough for the well-known circles that raise the flag of "reaching a deal" with Turkey, concealing the price, to reemerge on political arena again. Former Deputy Minister of State Rozaki's interview with journalist Sahinis was much discussed, because it was more honest. In fact, it is not the personal views of a reputable lawyer, but the expression of a school of thought, which has decisively influenced Greek policy towards Turkey.

Rozakis is right when he says that international jurisprudence does not automatically give full influence to EEZs on all islands, regardless of geographical location and size. In several cases there was limited influence and in a few (eg Snake Island in the Black Sea) no influence at all.

The Convention on the Law of the Sea states that islands that retain even basic economic activity are entitled to EEZs. It does not, however, explicitly state that the only and exclusive criterion for demarcation is the beginning of the middle line. If this was explicitly provided for, there would clearly be no need to negotiate the delimitation of the EEZ, nor for a referral to the International Court of Justice where there was disagreement. Demarcation would be a technical process.

Rozakis says that Greece's advantage is "that it really has a cluster of islands, which extends throughout the Aegean. In fact, there is a line that starts from Sounio and descends to Rhodes. There is no doubt that these islands are fully affected. Other islands may not be fully affected. Like Kastellorizo, for example. " He explains why - in his view – Kastellorizo does not have full influence in the EEZ, concluding: "I argue that Kastellorizo has limited influence."

The position of Rozakis for Kastellorizo

Rozakis' legal assessment - based on international jurisprudence - that the Court (if the case ever reaches there) will give Kastellorizo a reduced impact is legitimate. This, however, is qualitatively different from his statement that Kastellorizo should not have full influence. This position of the former Deputy Minister of State and adviser to successive governments might make sense (with many questions) if Turkey recognized that the islands have an EEZ. In other words, if he invoked the principle of proportionality and demanded - in the context of constructive negotiations with Greece - that Kastellorizo be given a reduced impact.

By violating international law, Turkey does not recognize that the islands have an EEZ. This is not a maximalist position in the face of negotiations, as some in Athens claim. After all, Turkey did not limit itself to words. With the Ankara-Tripoli memorandum, it has created a fait accompli to the detriment of Greece.

Consequently, even if during a constructive negotiation Athens may have discussed the possibility of accepting a reduced influence of Kastellorizo, it would be politically-diplomatically suicidal to do so when Ankara maintains such an aggressive-expansionist stance. It is dangerous that Rozaki's position is shared by many in the political, media and academic systems. I remind readers of former Foreign Minister Kotzias' statement that the "Greeks want everything for themselves" while referring to the influence of Kastellorizo, as well as the similar statement of former Deputy Foreign Minister Katrougalos.

Twelve mile territorial waters and navigation

Rozakis' second position that provoked reactions concerns the expansion of territorial waters. He specifically stated that Greece "should not go (from six to 12 miles) ... It would be welcome to make a 12-mile maritime zone (territorial waters) in the Ionian Sea, possibly in its mainland, but [if it does so] in the islands the Aegean Sea will be closed. . It deprives the merchant and warships of all states from free passage, from the freedom of the seas ... Because it will simply close the whole sea ... If you look at the map with 12 miles [marked] you will see that it closes all free passageways for navigation ".

In fact, as concerns the 12 mile limit, Rozakis puts forward the argument that Turkey traditionally invokes. Indeed, the expansion would turn most of the Aegean into a Greek sea. This, however, would have no practical effect on the navigation of merchant ships, and warships would make unimpeded passage through Greek territorial waters, as required by international law.

A look at the map shows that the central Aegean, in the Cyclades, is a Greek sea and with the current regime of six miles. This has never stopped navigation, and we have seen Turkish warships even outside Sounio make no harmless passage, in the sense that they are sent there to “show the flag”.

The closing of the Aegean to navigation is completely pretentious. It would be more honest for Rozakis and those who sing the same song to be honest with themselves and with citizens to whom they are addressing. In fact, they do not want Greece to expand its territorial waters, because they are afraid of the Turkish casus belli, since Ankara has characterized the expansion as a cause of war.

Taking territorial integrity to The Hague!

The third point of Rozaki's interview that is worth commenting on is his statement about “gray zones". As he revealed, "the investigative talks were based on the logic that one day we will go to court for the continental shelf and the EEZ and that all the peripheral qualifying differences would be resolved through these exploratory contacts."

What are the "peripheral differences"? Apparently the "gray zones" that have now become "Turkish islands under Greek occupation" in Ankara's rhetoric. Sahinis asked Rozakis if we are discussing the sovereignty of these islands. Here is the answer: "In the (official) Greek view, no. I would have no objection to discussing this issue. That is, since we have evidence and proof that it is Greek, there is no problem. You know that the Treaty of Lausanne says that Turkey has (in its possession islands) within 3 miles of its shores. So basically anything other than 3 miles is Greek. I'm not afraid of the court. "

The former minister told us that he agrees with the decision of an international court whether they will remain in Greece or will be granted to Turkey not only rocky islets, but also inhabited islands (Fourni, Oinousses, Lipsi, Agathonisi, Arkioi etc.). He added that he was not afraid of the decision of the International Court of Justice, because the Treaty of Lausanne is clear and in favor of Greece.

Legal criteria and political expediency

The Treaty is clear and in favor of Greece, but no self-respecting state would allow foreign judges to decide on its territorial integrity, just because a neighbor has raised claims! Not unless it had previously been defeated in war. It is a common secret that even for such crucial issues, even in the decisions of international courts, political expediency is involved, adulterating purely legal criteria.

After all, only Greek islands would be on the table for distribution, meaning that Greece would only have to lose and Turkey would only stand to gain. In the ideal case for Greece, the Court would grant it what it already owns. Even in international courts, however, ideal decisions are not the norm. Ultimately, if Turkey considers itself wronged, let it recognize the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice and appeal to it against Greece.

For my part, however, I must acknowledge about Rozakis that he has clearly stated what his like-minded politicians, journalists and academics are carefully concealing when they speak in public.

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