Thursday, July 18 2024

Turkey revisits island demilitarization


Signaling a return to the revisionist era before the February earthquakes last year, Turkey is restating its views regarding eastern Aegean Greek islands and linking Greece’s sovereignty to their demilitarization.


Turkish authorities reiterated the demilitarization view through three successive notices to airmen (NOTAMs) on Thursday on the occasion of the Greek aeronautical exercise Trident planned for next week in the eastern and southeastern Aegean Sea, between Psara and Chios and east and west of Karpathos.

Greece had announced the drill through the NOTAM system as these areas lie in their entirety within the Athens Flight Information Region (FIR).

In the NOTAM referring to Karpathos, Turkish authorities referenced the Paris Peace Treaties of 1947 using Turkish and Italian names of the island rather than the Greek one, claiming that these are areas which should be excluded from any scenario of military training or exercises. It also noted that the Greek exercise is a violation of a 1914 resolution on the demilitarized status of the east Aegean islands. Reference is also made to the Treaty of Lausanne, arguing that on the basis of this treaty the islands of Agios Efstratios, Limnos and Mytilene are also considered demilitarized. Similar references are made to the case of Chios and Psara. According to well-informed sources, Turkey has been gradually bringing back its views on the eastern Aegean through various channels. 


In January, Ankara registered its protest through diplomatic channels about officially announced exercises by the Hellenic Armed Forces. 


Moreover, it should be noted that just a few days ago, Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan spoke of “long-standing issues” in Greek-Turkish relations, referring specifically to “the status of the Aegean islands, demilitarization and airspace.” 

For its part, Athens sees these moves as, on the one hand, an attempt by Ankara to maintain its positions in a period of substantial calm on the ground, and, on the other, to convey the message that the lull in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean cannot last in perpetuity. Athens is also linking the stance to the upcoming local elections in Turkey. 

While monitoring these developments, Athens is preparing for the next steps in the Greek-Turkish contacts, which include the Political Dialogue phase scheduled for March 11, while the meeting between Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Recep Tayyip Erdogan will take place in the first half of May.