"Aegean Angst: The Greek-Turkish Dispute"

By Cayci, Sadi | Naval War College Review, Winter 1997 | Go to article overview

"Aegean Angst: The Greek-Turkish Dispute"


Cayci, Sadi, Naval War College Review


Sir:

I have read very carefully your article on the Greek-Turkish dispute (by Lt. Col. Michael N. Schmitt, USAF, Naval War College Review, Summer 1996), and I would like to thank you for your kind approach to this issue. I must state that it is one of the most objective, realistic and detailed articles I have ever read that waS written by a foreigner. I must congratulate Lt. Col. Schmitt. As a graduate (1988) of the Judge Advocate General's School, US. Army, I am well aware of the publishing policy that an article published in military journals reflects the views of the author only.

Nonetheless, I believe there are a number of points that should be taken into consideration when reading this article. For instance, on page 42 reference is made to Turkey as the "only" Nato country which did not sign the 1982 UNCLOS agreement; this puts Turkey in a negative light and is not just. Turkey's stand stems from her unique geographic location and from the historical background of her relationship with Greece, neither of which applies to other Nato allies. Similarly, the reference made to a "declaration" by the Turkish Grand National Assembly as a "decree" granting authority to the Turkish Government to treat any Greek attempt to broaden its territorial waters in the Aegean Sea as a casus belli is legally incorrect. It was only a "political statement" aimed at sending a clear message to the Greek authorities. Under the Turkish Constitution (Article 92, "Rules of Procedure of the Turkish Grand National Assembly") and the Act on Mobilization and State of War, to grant such authority to the Government the Parliament must pass a formal decree, which was not the case here.

The article suggests (page 43) that the sovereignty and security of the eastern Aegean islands are a top priority for Greece while for Turkey it is only one element affecting Turkey's security. On the contrary, and as affirmed on page 46, the situation and demilitarized status of these islands are Number One concerns for the defence of the Turkish mainland. This can also be discerned by a careful study of recent political history and from the contents of the respective transfer agreements. The past negative, aggressive Greek behaviour in this connection is clear evidence of the correctness of the approach taken by the legal instruments.

It is not correct to present agreements concluded by Turkey and certain Balkan countries on cooperation in the field of military training as agreements on "defense cooperation" or as efforts to create a "defence belt" against Greece. Neither is it fair to continue to refer to Istanbul as "Constantinople," or, with implied sorrow and misdirected admiration, to say that the city had fallen into the hands of the Turks and that only after four hundred years had it been possible to establish an independent Greece in the ashes of the Byzantine Empire. It is a pity that the author forgot that the Byzantine Empire was the continuation of the Eastern Roman Empire, which had nothing to do with the Greeks, and that he gave the impression that Istanbul and her environs originally belonged to the Greeks. The same can be said for referring to Izmir as "Smyrna" (page 45), and calling the Turkish Straits "the Bosporus" and "the Dardanelles" is yet another sign of the author's somewhat pro-Greek approach to the subject. The author should have emphasized more the fact that the recent political history of the region is in fact a story of Greek expansion at the expense of the Ottoman Empire, with the support and toleration of the Western powers of the time. That pattern, against the Republic of Turkey, still exists, and it is the root cause of the present Turkish-Greek disputes. This fact also reflects the political, rather than legal, nature of the disputes and demonstrates the correctness of Turkish insistence on settling the disputes through diplomatic, not judicial, means.

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