February 12, 2020 Special Dispatch No. 8554

Turkey Challenges Greece's Sovereignty Over 16 Islands In The Aegean Sea

February 12, 2020
Turkey | Special Dispatch No. 8554

Turkey's Defense Minister Hulusi Akar challenged Greece's sovereignty on its islands in the Aegean Sea, saying in two recent interviews that Greece had armed 16 islands in violation of the relevant agreements. The Greek government reacted, saying: "It is at the very least hypocritical for a country that systematically violates the territorial integrity, sovereignty and sovereign rights of nearly all its neighbouring countries... to invoke international law."

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar: "Greece Has Armed 16 Of Them Contrary To The Agreements"

In a statement on January 23, Akar said: "Despite these islands having a non-military status, Greece has armed 16 of them contrary to the agreements. We expect Greece to behave according to international law, the agreements it has signed, and good neighborly relations... We will not be encroached upon in any way. This is not a threat but our saying that we are in favor of good neighborliness is not a weakness. Right now, neither in the world nor in history is there a country whose territorial waters are six [nautical] miles and its airspace is ten [nautical] miles. We are faced with such outlandishness. They are trying to introduce this to world opinion as a reality. We are defending our right on this matter."[1]

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar (source:

Turkish Government: Territorial Waters Are Six Nautical Miles In Aegean Sea, 12 In Mediterranean And Black Seas

While the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea expands a country's territorial waters from six to 12 nautical miles from its shore, Turkey is not a party to this convention. The Turkish government recognizes its own territorial waters as including the waters six nautical miles from its shore in the Aegean Sea, and 12 nautical miles from its shore in the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea.[2] Were Turkey to recognize Greece's territorial waters as including those waters 12 nautical miles from Greece's shore, the many Greek islands in the Aegean Sea would bring much of that sea under Greek control.

Greek Foreign Ministry: "It Is At The Very Least Hypocritical For A Country That Systematically Violates The Territorial Integrity... Of Nearly All Its Neighbouring Countries... To Invoke International Law"

Also on January 23, the Greek Foreign Ministry released a statement, saying: "It is at the very least hypocritical for a country that systematically violates the territorial integrity, sovereignty and sovereign rights of nearly all its neighbouring countries – a country that threatens to go to war with its neighbour and ally if the latter exercises its legal rights, a country that trumpets its violation of the UN arms embargo on Libya – to invoke international law. Expectedly this country fails [to] realise that its neighbours are obliged to take every measure for their legal defence throughout their territory, despite the fact that this right is enshrined in the UN Charter, the very gospel of international law. And we continue to be understandably concerned at the fact that the international community’s constant urgings to Turkey to respect international law are falling on deaf ears."[3]

Akar discussed the issue of the Greek islands again in a February 9 interview: "Greece's approach to the issue makes it more difficult for the problems to be solved on common ground. Sixteen out of 23 islands have been armed since 1936, contrary to the agreements. At the same time, in a manner not seen anywhere in the world today or in the past, despite its territorial waters being six miles, it claims its airspace is ten miles. This is not in accordance with reason."

Retired staff colonel and former secretary general for Turkey's Defense Ministry Ümit Yalım commented on Akar's January 23 statement, saying that Greece had deployed battalion or regiment-level military units to 15 of the islands to which Akar had referred. Yalım listed the 15 islands as Thasos, Samothrace, Agios Efstratios, Psara, Ahikerya, Patmoz, Leipsoi, Leros, Kalymnos, Astypalaia, Nisyros, Symi, Tilos, Karpathos, and Meis.[4] In the past Yalım has cited historical agreements to say that three quarters of the island of Crete, as well as 14 other islands, islets, and bluffs now "under occupation" by Greece in fact belonged to Turkey.[5]

Yalım said that Greece had deployed regiments or battalions to 15 of the islands Akar mentioned.

[1], January 23, 2020.

Eyl%C3%BCl%202015/Cagla%20Tozlu.pdf, September 2015.

[3], January 23, 2020.

[4], January 23, 2020.

Share this Report: