Turkey starts hydrographic survey near Greek islands

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Turkey’s Office of Navigation, Hydrography and Oceanography announced hydrographic surveys near Greek islands Lesvos, Skyros and Agios Efstratios by research vessel Çeşme between May 28 and June 14.

While Greece maintains Turkey has no authority to issue navigation notices in the area as it goes beyond its continental shelf, Turkey says Greece routinely violates the 1988 Athens Accords, which call for a halting of military activity in the Aegean between July and September to avoid harming tourism. In 2006, the moratorium was updated to cover June to September.

On Friday, the Turkish newspaper Aydınlık accused Greece of “closing off the whole of the Aegean” with its military drills.

Meanwhile, on Saturday, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias called comments by Turkish officials “extreme”.

“We are not carried away by extreme rhetoric from across the Aegean. We choose the way and the time that we will answer. It is obvious that Turkish aggression is not limited to our country,” Dendias said, according to the Greek daily Kathimerini.

On the same day, Turkish daily Akşam cited Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu as “warning” Greece. “If Greece does not give up militarising the islands in violation of the Lausanne and Paris treaties, it will bring sovereignty into question,” Çavuşoğlu told reporters back from visiting Israel.

Akşam also shared photos from what it said were Greek military drills on Lesvos in the story entitled “The final warning to the Greeks over Lausanne”. The newspaper published satellite images allegedly showing significant numbers of Greek troops stationed on Lesvos.

Also, on Friday, Greece’s permanent representative to the United Nations delivered a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, rejecting Turkey’s assertions.

“Any attempt to call into question Greece’s sovereignty over these islands on the unfounded premise that Greece allegedly violates its obligation to demilitarise them under the treaties mentioned above is contrary to the fundamental principle of international law regarding the stability of boundaries and titles of sovereignty,” representative Maria Theofili said in the letter.

Greek islands have “undisputed” rights to an exclusive economic zone as per the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Theofili said.

Turkey says the Aegean islands should not generate continental shelf rights for Greece as they intersect with the maritime area Turkey claims rights over.

“We say that not every island can have a continental shelf. In particular, the islands far from the mainland and closer to Turkey cannot have a continental shelf,” Çavuoğlu had said in 2020.