Turkey on Tuesday issued three navigational communication telexes (NAVTEX) covering large swathes of the Aegean Sea.
The excuse given for this blatant provocation is supposedly in response to Greece’s legal militarization of the islands of Chios, Samos, Samothrace, Limnos, Ikaria and Patmos in self-defense against Turkish aggression.
As recently as Sunday Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan “We always see ourselves as part of Europe.”
“We chose to favor Europe as long as they don’t force us to look elsewhere,” Erdoğan claimed.
He added: “Keep your promises to our country, from full membership to the issue of refugees. Let’s establish a closer and more efficient cooperation together.”
However, once again, his so-called conciliatory remarks has proven to come to naught as Turkey once again provokes Greece by issuing a NAVTEX over six islands.
The three NAVTEXes were issued by the by the Smyrna (Σμύρνα, Turkish: İzmir) Station of Turkey’s Office of Navigation, Hydrography and Oceanography.
It is likely that the NAVTEX will be cancelled by a Greek NAVTEX who has jurisdiction over the maritime space.
Turkey claims that the militarization of islands close to the Turkish mainland violates the Treaty of Lausanne signed in 1923.
Although Limnos and Samothrace were originally subject to the Treaty of Lausanne, this was annulled by the 1936 Montreux Treaty.
Greece’s right to militarize Limnos and Samothrace was recognized by Turkey, in accordance with the letter sent to the Greek Prime Minister on May 6, 1936 by the Turkish Ambassador in Athens at the time, Roussen Esref, upon instructions from his Government.
The Turkish government reiterated this position when the then Turkish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Rustu Aras, in his address to the Turkish National Assembly on the occasion of ratifying the Montreux Treaty, unreservedly recognized Greece’s legal right to deploy troops on Limnos and Samothrace, with the following statement:
“The provisions pertaining to the islands of Limnos and Samothrace, which belong to our neighbor and friendly country Greece and were demilitarized in application of the 1923 Lausanne Treaty, were also abolished by the new Montreux Treaty, which gives us great pleasure” (Gazette of the Minutes of the Turkish National Assembly, volume 12, July 31/1936, page 309).
During the same period, Turkey gave similar assurances on this subject to the governments of interested third countries.
Chios, Samos and Ikaria are also not bound to the Treaty of Lausanne, despite Turkey’s blatant lies and insistence. The Lausanne Treaty makes no mention that these islands have a demilitarized status.
In the case of Patmos, it was never bound to the Treaty of Lausanne, which was signed in 1923, as it was under Italian rule.
Patmos was ceded to Greece with full sovereignty in April 1947 after the signing of the Paris Peace Treaty between Italy and the World War II Allies.
The provisions of this Treaty provided for the demilitarization of these island said it “shall be demilitarized and shall remain so”.
There is a National Guard presence on the Dodecanese island group, in which Patmos is a part of, but that has been declared in accordance with Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe provisions.
With regard to Turkish claims on the demilitarization of Patmos, it should be noted that:
• Turkey is not a signatory state to this Treaty, which therefore constitutes a “res inter alios acta” for Turkey; i.e., an issue pertaining to others. According to Article 34 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, a treaty does not create obligations or rights for third countries.
• The demilitarized status of the Dodecanese islands was imposed after the decisive intervention of the Soviet Union and echoes Moscow’s political intentions at that point in time. It should, however, be noted that a demilitarized status lost its raison d’être with the creation of NATO and the Warsaw Pact, as incompatible with countries’ participating in military alliances.