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Dispute That Lasted a Century: The Aegean Problem - Canberk Taze

Aegean Sea is located between Greece and Turkey that consists of many islands and rocks, some of which are militarized by Greece. Contrary to the UN Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLoS) territorial waters between Greece and Turkey as of right now are 6 nautical miles each, as its vital to the interests of Turkey. The breadth of the territorial seas should not be considered as 12 nautical miles because if that was the case, Turkish citizens would be locked out of Aegean Sea and would have to remain only in their territorial waters. By keeping them at 6 miles, middle of the Aegean Sea remains as high seas, helping trade ships to pass by will and remaining free trade. States also wouldn’t be able to act accordingly to their military interests because the right to innocent passage of a military ship could be protested by the states.

Militarization of the islands of Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Ikaria, Lemnos and Samothrace was banned by 1923 Lausanne Peace Treaty and 1947 Paris Peace Treaty further confirmed the demilitarized status of these island and Greece ceded Dodecanese Islands on the explicit condition that they would remain demilitarized. Contrary to these agreements, since 1960s these islands remain militarized. Turkey can’t go to International Court of Justice (ICC) regarding this situation since ICC only accepts disputes where it has jurisdiction. Since Greece reserved has a reservation to the jurisdiction of ICC concerning matters of national security, the Court can’t give a binding judgement about this issue.

Turkey’s interests regarding a 6 nautical mile territorial sea also contradicts with their interests in the Mediterranean. Since Turkey has to protest the custom 12 nautical mile baseline, they can’t claim to have a 12 nautical mile territorial sea in Black Sea and Mediterranean as well. If Greece and Turkey make a bounding agreement between themselves regarding the status of the Aegean, Turkey could lift its protests against UNCLoS and have a 12 nautical mile territorial sea in the Mediterranean as well. As a side note, Turkey applies UNCLoS as customary international law. Nations not ratifying a worldwide treaty doesn’t affect the bounding effect it has on ICC, only thing nations can do is to protest the treaty regularly so it doesn’t become customary law. Airspace of a country also extends from their land to all airspace on top of their territorial sea. And in regard to airspaces, right to innocent passage doesn’t exists. Since Turkey can’t claim a larger airspace elsewhere because of Aegean, their security interests are at stake because it’s harder to claim a security interest outside of your airspace.


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