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Eastern Mediterranean: distinct borders are needed

Submitted by Marco Maier…

The conflict over maritime borders is escalating, not only in the South China Sea. The fuse is also burning in the eastern Mediterranean.

There are international rules, such as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which has now been ratified by 60 countries. This convention is actually intended to regulate territorial disputes in the oceans. But in the comparatively narrow conditions in the eastern Mediterranean, there are many problems in this regard.

While Turkey has allied itself with the Libyan unity government (pro Muslim Brotherhood), Greece, Cyprus (and thus the EU) and Egypt (allied with the Libyan LNA of Haftar) are on the opposite side. It is apparent that Ankara is obviously also including the claims of the internationally unrecognized Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

However, Turkish claims affect the Greek Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) much more than those of Cyprus.

So reports the Independent Balkan News Agency (ibna):

Kastelorizo ​​is an island located 2 km from the city of Antalya and has an area of ​​about 9 square kilometers. With the Treaty of Lausanne it was granted to Italy and after 1947 with the Treaty of Paris to Greece by the Italians. The problem for Turkey is whether Kastellorizo ​​is entitled to an EEZ and a continental shelf.

Greece, according to its plans for the EEZ, wants to make Crete’s Kasos Rodos Kastellorizos line the basis for the demarcation of its territorial waters. With a possible delimitation of Greece’s EEZ with Egypt on the basis of the principle of the middle line and delimitation with Cyprus, the continental shelf and the Turkish EEZ are automatically confined to only an open point in the Mediterranean in the Gulf of Antalya.

Naturally for Turkey, Kastelorizo ​​is the focal point of the line that defines the Greek EEZ. Firstly, because from one side the line from Rhodes to Kastelorizo ​​closes all the Turkish coastline on the open seas and secondly on the other hand the line between Kastelorizo ​​and Egypt enables Greece to join its EEZ with that of Cyprus, thus limiting the maritime zones of Turkey.

This means: in order to avoid further disputes, Athens and Ankara would have to go to arbitration and unconditionally accept the decision. Or they could agree bilaterally on a compromise over the disputed territory and exploit it jointly on fixed terms. After all, this is an area which is larger than Austria.

But a diplomatic agreement is likely to be difficult to reach. Ankara and Athens have a historical enmity that is hard to overcome. Nationalists on both sides would sabotage such an agreement.

Clearly defined boundaries are important, however, to prevent the dispute from escalating into a military conflict. Will this succeed in the foreseeable future? Given the Neo Ottoman ambitions of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, this is rather unlikely.

One will probably have to prepare for several more confrontations. Confrontations between two “partners”, which also represent an enormous test for NATO.


Marco Maier is author of several books, as well as editor of the “Contra Magazin” and the German-language geopolitical journal “Geopolitik“.

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Barak G.
Barak G.
September 16, 2020

Marco, here is where you are wrong: “While Turkey has allied itself with the Libyan unity government (pro Muslim Brotherhood), Greece, Cyprus (and thus the EU) and Egypt (allied with the Libyan LNA of Haftar) are on the opposite side.” Libyan unity government is the one formally recognized by the UN for representing Libya. Muslim Brotherhood angle is irrelevant. Greece and Cyprus duo does not mean entire EU for decision making, and the EU as an institution does NOT support LNA. “Given the Neo Ottoman ambitions of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, this is rather unlikely.” You may not like hear… Read more »

Tsigantes
Tsigantes
Reply to  Barak G.
September 16, 2020

The GNA was awarded recognition by the UN as representing Libya for a restricted time period. This ran out 2 years ago. Thus both the GNA and LNA have equal status at present and in the eyes of the UN Libya is at present unrepresented by any government.

Tsigantes
Tsigantes
Reply to  Barak G.
September 16, 2020

We know who is trying to follow an “expansionist policy” in the eastern Mediterranean !.”

It would help the discussion if you would clarify which state you refer to, Barak G.

Tsigantes
Tsigantes
September 16, 2020

My earlier comment has disappeared. However, in disagreement with Mr. Maier, please note his title ‘Distinct borders are needed’. Yes the Mediterranean’s UNCLOS [maritime] borders need to be ratified or in some cases questioned but in the case of Greece and the Aegean its present borders with Turkey have been in place for more than 70 years and recognised by the international community unquestioned, including Turkey. Because half of Greece is an archipelago these borders are also maritime and because of this special attention was given to closely defining the maritime Aegean border by the daughters of the international treaty.… Read more »

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