The Cairo agreement on the demarcation of the EEZ between Greece and Egypt is a successful move and a useful development for Greece. This mainly concerns the political-diplomatic level after a series of Turkish initiatives that, despite their arbitrary and legally weak character, had put in a difficult position the always lawful but also usually hesitant Greece!
The illegal research and drilling of Turkey within the Cyprus EEZ, the announcement of similar arbitrary actions on the Greek continental shelf, the questioning of the sea zones of Greek islands (but also of Cyprus), the claim of Turkish sovereignty over many Greek islands and islets, various other unilateral and illegal claims against Greece (starting in 1973), but mainly the top act of the Turkish tragicomic issue of the Turkish-Libyan pseudo-memorandum, had created a Turkish incursion on the issues of maritime zones and jurisdiction.
Thus, Greece was forced to defend itself, citing international law, seeking the support of the international community. However, neither had Greece used international law, nor had the international community rushed to confront and overturn the arbitrary Turkish initiatives.
he moves of the US, the EU and other friendly towards Greece countries remained at the level of verbal complaints or, at most, the expression of intentions for financial sanctions against Turkey in the future. At the same time, the UN, NATO and Russia maintained a Pontius Pilate-like stance or maintained a hypocritical neutrality that was ultimately harmful to Greece and Cyprus.
Finally, the insurmountable necessity posed by developments and the frenzy of Turkish illegalities, but also international inaction, led Greek diplomacy to taking initiatives! Timid and cowardly, but still initiatives, to drive Greece out of its "peculiar national loneliness". To which it had been led by many years (over 45 years) of inactivity and "self-restraint", in terms of utilizing the most powerful legal arsenal with which she was equipped by the International Law of the Sea in combination with its geography.
The two agreements
If this did not happen recently, albeit with a huge delay, Greece was in danger of losing significant sovereign rights but also sovereignty in its adjacent seas and being isolated from the historic area of presence and activity of Hellenism in the Eastern Mediterranean, with a shrinking world-famous Greek maritime acumen and a simultaneous loss of significant natural and economic resources but mainly vital space to which Hellenism is entitled to in the surrounding sea areas.
With the two recent initiatives of Greece, with the maritime demarcation with Italy (June 2020) and with the partial demarcation with Egypt (August 2020), it finally achieved the delimitation of part of the Greek maritime border with the neighboring states and even based on the invocation and use of International Conventional and Customary Law.
The imposition of influence on small and large Greek islands, in fact, comes to strengthen the main argument of Greece but also to face the simultaneous problem caused by the illegal refusal of Turkey to accept the fundamental rule (Article 121.2) of the Convention on the Law of the Sea (which is also a customary rule), that the islands have equal rights of maritime zones with the mainland, except for rocks or islets that can not maintain an autonomous human settlement (Article 121.3)
The difficult part
Of course, what remains now is the most difficult part of the project:
- The demarcation with Cyprus and Egypt for the rest of the Greek continental shelf in the Eastern Mediterranean, in which Turkey is also involved, preventing legal and consensual solutions with its illegal and unilateral positions on the islands and their maritime zones.
The demarcation with Turkey itself both in the Eastern Mediterranean (from Eastern Crete, Karpathos and Rhodes to Kastellorizo) and in the Aegean, which today appears impossible and doomed to fail, given the Turkish positions.
- The demarcation with Libya, south of Crete, which currently seems impossible as it is a country divided by land and in a state of civil war with strong foreign interventions and influences. There, any demarcation will have to wait for the outcome of the civil war and the normalization of the situation and of course the complete cancellation of the farcical Turkish-Libyan memorandum on the maritime zones.
- Also in line is the long-suffering Greek-Albanian demarcation in the northern Ionian after the illegal cancellation by Albania of the Demarcation Agreement with Greece of 2009.
But what is most important is the exploitation by Greece, through its own decisions, of the full range of rights provided by the Law of the Sea, as it is a country with a coastline of more than 15,000 kilometers. That is, the establishment of straight baselines, the extension of the coastal zone to 12 nautical miles, the establishment of a border zone of 24 nautical miles, the establishment of an EEZ.
Also in line is the long-suffering Greek-Albanian demarcation in the northern Ionian after the illegal cancellation by Albania of the Demarcation Agreement with Greece of 2009.
But what is most important is the exploitation by Greece, through its own decisions, of the full range of rights provided by the Law of the Sea, as it is a country with a coastline of more than 15,000 kilometers. That is, the establishment of straight baselines, the extension of the coastal zone to 12 nautical miles, the establishment of a border zone of 24 nautical miles, the establishment of an EEZ of 200 nautical miles and full exploration and utilization of the Greek continental shelf which already belongs to Greece.
In fact, while the delimitation of the borders with the neighboring states is pending, the research in all the adjacent seabeds of Greece can be done without approaching the outer border of the middle line with the other states (in order to avoid reactions), but inside the areas Greece claims as a continental shelf or EEZ (since its inception).
Securing the Aegean archipelago
The dominant issue, of course, is to ensure the unity and cohesion of the historic Aegean archipelago. From Samothrace to Kythira and from Crete to Rhodes and the Kastellorizo complex. Thus, a huge part of the contour of the Greek area will be secured, which due to the dominant position of the Aegean archipelago (which belongs to Greece) on the maritime area, leads to Greek sovereignty (coastal zone) or sovereign rights of economic nature (continental shelf / EEZ) in about 90% of the sea area of the Aegean.
This without invalidating the legal rights of navigation, overflight and laying of pipelines and cables by Turkey and other countries, ie using the freedoms of the High Seas (International Waters) that continue to apply within the Continental Shelf / EEZ, but if they do they do not conflict with the rights of the coastal state. Mainly through the very strong customary and contractual right of the Harmless Passage through the Littoral Zone.
Turkey, as a predominantly landlocked state, has renounced any land rights beyond 3 nm from its shores in the Aegean (Treaty of Lausanne) and has no right to deny what is required by the Law of the Sea, ie the maritime rights of the islands . Nor, of course, is it entitled to act in a revisionist manner and aggressively, trying to avoid the application of orthodox international law with contra legem (unlawful) unilateral moves, such as the Turkish-Libyan memorandum and illegal research and drilling, but also the claim of Greece. Turkey is entitled to all the maritime rights allowed by the Law of the Sea and not what its own wishes impose!
Greece, taking advantage of the positive momentum created by the two recent demarcations, must proceed immediately to the other necessary initiatives in the field of its maritime rights mentioned above, to make up for lost time and overturn its negative record of being the 149th (ie the last) coastal country in terms of establishing its maritime rights!
The spasmodic reactions and the intense irritation of Turkey and its leadership are a clear proof of Greece's success: the two delimitations with Italy and Egypt, despite the compromises they contain, because they were made under conditions of pressure and necessity for Greece, and after long and unjustified inaction, are the starting point and proof of the enormous importance of regaining the advantage of the initiative of moves that for so many years had been the prerogative of its its cunning and covetous neighbor, Turkey.
Endless exploratory talks
The reluctant tactics of endless "exploratory" talks will lead nowhere but to the loss of valuable time, especially when such talks or direct negotiations were held for about 20 years in total with Turkey, resulting only in the "freezing" of Greek rights and unbelievable emboldening and maritime expansion of Turkey.
But even if it is chosen as a policy for reasons of impressions in favor of Greece or for the satisfaction of Greece's allies-partners (mainly Germany), it should be done, first, for a minimum period of time, as everything has been considered and supported in the negotiations so far, and secondly, of course, under the inviolable condition of practical Turkish actions to return to international legitimacy such as:
- Cancellation of the farcical Turkish-Libyan memorandum
- Cessation of exploration and drilling in foreign or disputed sea areas (Greece-Cyprus).
- Acceptance of contractual and customary law of the sea.
- Acceptance of the obligatory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice to resolve Turkey's international disputes (Greece has done so since 1994), without even presenting illegal and extortionate conditions for appealing to it.
- Cessation of the questioning of the Treaty of Lausanne and other International Treaties.
Acceptance of an immediate settlement of the Cyprus issue on the basis of the UN Resolutions.
The leverage to pursue all of the above is the strong military deterrent capability of Greece, which has recently functioned very positively with the deployment and dispersal of its fleet and the rapid readiness of its Armed Forces. And of course the exploitation of its alliances, where this is possible and substantial and not pretentious.
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