NATO and the EU can make for strange bedfellows…
Turkey is in NATO. So is Greece. An attack on one means the other must come it it’s defense.
The USA (and much of Europe) are also NATO members. An attack on Greece or Turkey means all of us much come to their defense.
The USA has stated they will defend Israel. An attack on Israel is likely to get some US Involvement (eventually…)
So what happens if Turkey attacks Greece?
Or if Turkey attacks Israel? Or if Israel sinks a Turkish ship?
But it gets worse.
Turkey wants to join the EU. (Or had wanted to… maybe they are rethinking things in light of recent EU “issues” ;-)
Greece holds a “veto” over Turkey on that joining issue.
You would think this might make Turkey be a bit more circumspect about threats to Greece. You would be wrong.
Turkey declares Casus Belli on Greek Territorial Waters
I was looking at a dispute down in the Falklands (again…) where I ran into the fact that they found a bunch of oil next to them. This has caused the UK to stop pushing the locals to ‘love Argentina’ – well, that, and the fact that the locals were sending hate mail about it to parliament… AND it has caused Argentina to start making noises at the UN about “Mine Mine Mine MINE MINE!”… (their claim appears bogus based on the history I’ve found. Basically, the UK has dominated the Falklands since first discovery and the Argentine claim is based on one guy putting up a plaque AFTER the British and some ‘nature’ claim that comes down to ‘it is close to us so we can take it’.) The UK is even sending a prince down to the Falklands …
That lead to looking at the various territorial waters claims, that lead to a Greek / Turkey issue that leads to this posting.
Where we find out that the USA and France have very large waters, while Russian and China are smaller than expected. BUT since much of the Russian territorial waters are in the Arctic, it’s clear why the started talking about Arctic seabed resources. They have a ‘sea bed gap’ ;-) But back at Greece, Turkey, and Israel… Under “Greece” was this odd bit:
Greece has not yet claimed an exclusive economic zone, although it is entitled to do so, as per UNCLOS 1982 as well as customary international law. This had led to direct threat by Turkey of casus belli if Greece was to declare her exclusive economic zone, although Greece restrained from any kind of declaration so far.
Well. That’s got to put a bit of a wrinkle into that whole EU membership / NATO mutual support matrix…
One other “odd bit” is that if Turkey WERE an EU member, they share Exclusive Economic Zones anyway, so Turkey could go on using whatever waters it is presently using that would be denied if Greece declared its legally allowed zone… Bit of a ‘chicken and egg’ there. So if Turkey just ‘played nice’ and said “Do what is legally your right, Greece, we respect your rights”; they would likely get EU membership fairly quickly and access to ALL EU Exclusive Economic Zones (of about 200 nautical miles). But instead they play the near-belligerent and Greece waves around an EU veto.
You would think folks would be brighter than that.
So WHY all this fuss? Well, it comes from what Turkey calls a unique character of the Aegean sea and what looks to me like an artifact of how Greece was able to reclaim land better after the various World Wars where the Ottoman Empire was on the losing side. Basically, it’s an artifact of PRIOR wars between these two (on and off for a few centuries…) Basically, Greek islands are spitting distance from Turkey. Oh, and that whole ‘Turkey stealing half of Cyprus in 1974′ thing. (Oh, pardon, “liberating” it from Greek domination. Technically Cyprus was independent and the Greeks were hoping to get it back) So these folks “have history” between them.
Turkey’s declaration of casus belli is not related to the EEZ issue. Turkey claims that the Aegean Sea’s status as a semi-closed sea affords it a special nature (unlike other semi-closed seas as the Adriatic or even fully enclosed seas as the Black Sea). Moreover, Turkey is not among the signatories of UNCLOS which allows countries to expand the width of their territorial waters up to 12 nautical miles (22 km). Even though Turkey is a persistent objector to the relevant article of UNCLOS, it has expanded its own territorial waters in the Black Sea to 12 nautical miles (22 km). And moreover, in 1995 just after Greek parliament ratifications of UNCLOS (as every signatory state was entitled), Turkey declared that if Greece expands the width of her territorial waters over 6 nautical miles (11 km), Turkey would conceive this action as a containment attempt and a direct offense to her sovereignty and thus threatened Greece with a war (casus belli).
According to published maps, the Israeli government has recognized the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) of Greece and Cyprus. They describe the course of the gas pipeline which will transfer gas produced by American Νoble Εnergy Ltd. from the Leviathan reservoir to Europe, through an undersea pipeline crossing Greece. The gas pipeline should traverse the sea area, which according to international law, is part of the Greek EEZ. By this proposal, Israel recognizes the Greek EEZ in the area and offers an advantage that Greece can use during negotiation procedures to support its claims on the area. In practice, this cooperation will set up a powerful energy coalition between Greece, Cyprus and Israel. The mining and operating part will be undertaken by an American company. “The substance of the issue is that in an effort to protect and secure vital Israeli interests in the Mediterranean Sea, Israel has been left with no choice other than to officially delimit its maritime borders,” an Israeli diplomat told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.
Oh Dear. Israel has found a load of gas off shore. It is looking to sell that to Europe, and has made a deal with Greece.
Turkey will find that at a minimum ‘disturbing’ as it presses the Greek EEZ Exclusive Economic Zone issue.
Here is what the sea claims would look like with a 12 nautical mile demarcation. You can see that Turkey would feel a bit squeezed in by this.
Compare that with the 6 Nautical Miles at present where there are International Waters for Turkey to use all the way to the Mediterranean:
Making all this particularly silly, of course, is that if Turkey were just willing to back down and play nice they could have access to all of the EU waters. Sigh…
So I can see where it would be a PITA for Turkey. Yet Greece has that right under all sorts of treaties and international law. And, were Turkey to declare casus belli (cause for war) over this, the results for Turkey would be pretty lousy. Unless, of course, it were deciding it was not very interested in being ‘European’ after all and was more aligned with the Muslim World. (An issue with which Turkey has struggled for hundreds of years.)
That Israel is in the mix has got to cause some heartburn too.
The Aegean dispute is a set of interrelated controversial issues between Greece and Turkey over sovereignty and related rights in the area of the Aegean Sea. This set of conflicts has had a large effect on Greek-Turkish relations since the 1970s. It has twice led to crises coming close to the outbreak of military hostilities, in 1987 and in early 1996. The issues in the Aegean fall into several categories:
The delimitation of the territorial waters,
The delimitation of the national airspace,
The delimitation of exclusive economic zones and the use of the continental shelf,
The delimitation of Flight Information Regions (FIR), and their significance for the control of military flight activity,
The issue of the demilitarized status assigned to some of the Greek islands in the area,
Turkish claims of “grey zones” of undetermined sovereignty over a number of small islets, most notably the islets of Imia/Kardak.
Since 1998, the two countries have been coming closer to overcome the tensions through a series of diplomatic measures, particularly with a view to easing Turkey’s accession to the European Union. However, as of 2010, differences over suitable diplomatic paths to a substantial solution are still unresolved.
Tensions over the 12 mile question ran highest between the two countries in the early 1990s, when the Law of the Sea was going to come into force. On 9 June 1995, the Turkish parliament officially declared that unilateral action by Greece would constitute a casus belli, i.e. reason to go to war. This declaration has been condemned by Greece as a violation of the Charter of the United Nations, which forbids “the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state”
So this is a current issue and not settled. It isn’t idle speculation, it has official parliamentary pronouncements. It also has folks ‘playing chicken’ over the airspace too:
The national airspace
The national airspace is normally defined as the airspace covering a state’s land territory and its adjacent territorial waters. National airspace gives the sovereign state a large degree of control over foreign air traffic. While civil aviation is normally allowed passage under international treaties, foreign military and other state aircraft (unlike military vessels in the territorial waters) do not have a right to free passage through another state’s national airspace. The delimitation of national airspace claimed by Greece is exceptional, as it does not coincide with the boundary of the territorial waters. Greece claims 10 nautical miles (19 km) of airspace, as opposed to currently 6 miles of territorial waters. Since 1974, Turkey has refused to acknowledge the validity of the outer 4-mile belt of airspace that extends beyond the Greek territorial waters. Turkey cites the statutes of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) of 1948, as containing a binding definition that both zones must coincide. Against this, Greece argues that:
- its 10-nautical-mile (19 km) claim predates the ICAO statute, having been fixed in 1931, and that it was acknowledged by all its neighbours, including Turkey, before and after 1948, hence constituting an established right;
- its 10 mile claim can also be interpreted as just a partial, selective use of the much wider rights guaranteed by the Law of the Sea, namely the right to a 12 mile zone both in the air and on the water;
- Greek territorial waters are set at the 6 mile boundary only because of Turkey’s casus belli (see above).
The conflict over military flight activities has led to a practice of continuous tactical military provocations, with Turkish aircraft flying in the outer 4 mile zone of contentious airspace and Greek aircraft intercepting them. These encounters often lead to so-called “dog-fights”, dangerous flight maneuvers that have repeatedly ended in casualties on both sides. In one instance in 1996, it has been alleged that a Turkish plane was accidentally shot down by a Greek one.
Well, that’s going to be an issue for Turkish entry into the EU… It also raises interesting questions about the US / Obama administration saying it will sell very advanced fighters to Turkey. Will the same be provided to Greece? Or are we setting up a Turkey Shootdown?
There is much more detail in that link, including various nit harvesting efforts over the time of various islands becoming Greek and various treaties (and various folks pulling out of them as Turkey did on at least one occasion) and how that does or does not limit folks.
The bottom line, for me, is that some of this is sequale of W.W.II, W.W.I, the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, and perhaps even earlier to and fro between empires of the past. A bit of a ‘dig here’ into various bits of history… I note in passing that at one time Turkey and Greece swapped ethnic populations and about 1.5 million ethnic Greeks left Anatolia for Greece while a lesser number went the other way. At one time much of Anatolia was Greek. It has been fairly ‘dynamic’ even in recent times:
This implies a lot of folks will still ‘have issues’ over some of those losses. Remember, too, that both Greece and Israel were part of the Ottoman Empire (so “Islamic” lands and the Koran insists those must be regained for Islam at some time). Yet the folks who live there did not lose their identity. Greece eventually regained independence
Following years of negotiation, three Great Powers, Russia, the United Kingdom and France, decided to intervene in the conflict and each nation sent a navy to Greece. Following news that combined Ottoman–Egyptian fleets were going to attack the Greek island of Hydra, the allied fleet intercepted the Ottoman–Egyptian fleet at Navarino. Following a week long standoff, a battle began which resulted in the destruction of the Ottoman–Egyptian fleet. With the help of a French expeditionary force, the Greeks drove the Turks out of the Peloponnese and proceeded to the captured part of Central Greece by 1828. As a result of years of negotiation, Greece was finally recognized as an independent nation in May 1832.
The Revolution is celebrated on 25 March by the modern Greek state, which is a national day.
So after 400 or so years of domination by the Ottoman-Turks, Greece finally got it’s independence. That’s not the kind of thing that folks forget, or that gets left out of their history books.
(Click through the images there for the attributions)
And what it looked like in 1900:
Then W.W.I happened and everything gets stirred again. W.W.II adds some more stirring. And we end up with the standoff of more recent history.
I suspect that to really internalize the dynamics here, I’ll need to go back and learn about the bit of history between Napoleon and W.W.I as some of the recent dynamics look to be directly driven out of that Royals and Empires era. But that will have to be on another day.
For now, we go ‘back to the present’. We’ve established a deep and long lasting conflict. Recent tensions. There is the dynamic of Israel added. So how is this playing out presently?
The Greek point of view looks at the Turkish “Red Book” of threats and sees Greece still listed as an issue.
Greece could be a friendly country if only there were not these stupid problems…! This is more or less the message that Ankara tries to convey to Athens and the European Union through the revision of the National Security Policy Document. Greece keeps the status of “external threat to Turkey” and thecasus belli ( a cause for war) remains over the 12 miles-dispute.
On Wednesday, Turkey’s National Security Council (MGK) agreed to make radical changes to the National Security Policy document referred to as the “Red Book” or the “Secret Constitution of Turkey”, in which the main internal and external threats to Turkey’s security are outlined.
Unlike earlier reports or better say ‘political leaks to the Turkish press’ , that Turkey would omit the casus belli against Greece from its Red Book, powerful Turkish Generals remained adamant on the issue. No matter what Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s goals and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s vision might be of having “zero problems with neighbors”, the Turkish Army will never give up or revise its own foreign policy towards Greece.
So the official political view is ‘make nice’ while the military continues to say ‘yeah, right, we’re not gonna’.
While Greece says ‘So, make nice already, at least if you want to have any hope of EU membership’
Greece dismisses Turkey’s casus belli: Unacceptable for an EU-candidate to threaten with war an EU-member.
Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman dismisses Turkey’s casus belli as “unacceptable” and repeats that extending territorial waters to 12 nautical miles is the right of Greece according to the Law of the Sea. He also says, it is unacceptable for a candidate to European Union to threaten with war a member-country of the EU.
Briefing the media earlier today, Greek FM spokesman, Grigoris Delavekouras, answered questions on Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu statement that Ankara cannot lift the casus belli as an unilateral move towards Greece.
And it all may come down to one little island with a couple of hundred folks living on it. Kastelorizo. There’s a good write up of it here:
That little rock lets the 200 nautical mile economic zone of Greece claim a lot of Mediterranean and blocks Turkey.
Were Athens to claim its full EEZ, Kastelorizo’s presence would make its EEZ contiguous with the EEZ of Cyprus, a factor with great import now, at a moment of massive off-shore gas and oil discoveries. Kastelorizo with an EEZ benefits the emerging Greece-Cyprus-Israel alliance by making it possible to transport either Cypriot and Israeli natural gas (via pipeline) or electricity (via cable) to Western Europe without Turkish permission. This has taken on special urgency since Nov. 4, when Turkey’s minister for energy, Taner Yıldız, announced that his government would not permit Israeli natural gas to transit Turkish territory; Ankara will likely also ban Cypriot exports.
While back in Turkey things are getting very cold…
Many schools and roads close as snow wreaks havoc across Turkey
8 February 2012 / TODAY’S ZAMAN, İSTANBUL
Snow paralyzed life in many provinces across Turkey and led to the closure of many schools and roads on Wednesday.
Heavy snowfall disrupted daily life, leading to the closure of schools and causing numerous roads to become impassable in Kahramanmaraş, Malatya, Elazığ, Çorum, Giresun and Amasya.
The Göksun-Kahramanmaraş highway was closed to traffic for a short time following an avalanche on Wednesday. Numerous vehicles were stuck in standstill traffic. The road opened to traffic after municipal teams worked hard in heavy snowfall to clear the snow from the road. They warned drivers about the condition of the road and recommended that vehicles be equipped with snow chains. Two buses were rescued by municipality teams after they were stranded on the highway for an hour following the avalanche.
Meanwhile, a total of 650 village roads have been blocked due to heavy snowfall in Sinop, Amasya, Çorum and Giresun. With 88 village roads blocked on Wednesday due to snow in Giresun, schools were closed for the day in the districts of Alucra and Çamoluk. Forty-six teams, 22 graders and three snowplows reportedly worked to unblock the roads in Giresun.
When it gets very cold and the climate makes life hard and food short supplied, folks tend to fall back on old animosities as a way to distract the populace and, perhaps, get more resources. We like to think “This time things are different”. I sure hope so. Though it always is to some extent, it never has been to enough extent.
At this point, Turkey is making supportive noises toward Syria and Iran, and against Greece and Israel. The USA is making grumpy faces at Syria and Iran. (And fully supporting Israel). On the sidelines, but only just, is Russia; supporting Syria and Iran. All that is missing is for a German / French / British EU dimension and we’re close to recreating the kind of stuff that lead to W.W.I (and it’s echo W.W.II). This one has a larger China role (quasi-neutral but supportive of Iran, though the source of funding / loans to the USA) so that’s a bit of a wild card.
For me, I’m not going to be doing any “investing” in that area for a while. Money to be in “other places”. Canada. Australia. New Zealand. Selected Latin America. The EU / Middle East is just too dicey. Russia too much a puzzle box. China / India perhaps but they have their own issues.
I don’t know why, exactly, but I just can’t quite shake the feeling that his looks a whole lot like the pre-W.W.I kind of posturing while having echoes of the Revelations Armageddon story with the names changed to more modern ones. In the end, I’m left to simply hope that I’m just being paranoid and “This time IS different”, folks will step back from the brink, and scores will be settle with pen and paper, not bombs, guns, and bodies.
“But hope is not a strategy. -E.M.Smith”…