The physical and legal characteristics of the Aegean Sea is one set of elements that epitomise the very essence of the Aegean disputes. By virtue of this, it is essential that they be reviewed and clarified at the outset in order to comprehend why these disputes, especially those related to maritime matters, have emerged in the first place and have not been resolved so far. Part I aims at exploring these characteristics in order to establish the bases for considering the settlement of Aegean maritime disputes on the basis of international law.
A. Physical Characteristics of the Aegean Sea
1. Geographical Features of the Aegean Sea
1.1 The Geography of the Aegean Sea
Although the Aegean Sea is given a distinct name, the “Aegean”, it is in fact only a part of a wider sea area, the Mediterranean, in its northeast section. However, there are many more geographical features that characterise and differentiate the Aegean Sea from the Mediterranean .
It is surrounded exclusively by the territories of Greece and Turkey. The Greek mainland territory surrounds the Aegean’s western and northern coasts as far as the Greek-Turkish land boundary terminus in the northeast. From the land boundary terminus to the east as the far end of the Aegean Sea in the south, it is the Turkish mainland territory that surrounds all the eastern coasts to the point which could be regarded.
The Aegean coasts are mostly indented with various geographical features such as gulfs, reefs, capes and surrounded by numerous coastal islands, islets and rocks. The only exception is the Greek coastline that surrounds the Aegean Sea in the north which is relatively smooth.
The overall size of the Aegean Sea is another feature that deserves to be mentioned here. It is a noticeably narrow sea compared to other seas of the world especially in its central section where the distance between the mainlands of Greece and Turkey is only around 150 km on average. It is relatively wider in the south where the distance reaches 400 km on average. The sea is no wider than 350 km on overall average.
Although the Aegean Sea is surrounded exclusively by the coasts of Greece and Turkey, this does not mean that it has no relation to other countries. It is a maritime link to all the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. The Aegean Sea is moreover connected directly to the Sea of Marmara through the strait of Çanakkale (the Dardanelles) and thus connected indirectly to the Black Sea through the strait of İstanbul (the Bosphorus). It therefore functions as a link to the Mediterranean for the Black Sea countries.
The most distinctive geographical characteristic of the Aegean Sea is no doubt the number of the islands. It is a place for more than 3,000 islands, islets, and rocks despite its relatively narrow size. These features are extremely variable in size and location. Some parts of the Sea are populated with more islands than the other parts. Generally speaking, the southern Aegean Sea has more islands, islets and rocks than the northern Aegean Sea. Another significant feature is that almost all of them, including those located in the very close vicinity of the Turkish mainland coasts, belong to Greece with exception of a few Turkish islands.
Characterised by such geographical features, the Aegean Sea requires a very complicated process to follow in order to regulate maritime rights, especially those related to maritime delimitation. The fact that most of these islands, including those situated very close to the Turkish coasts, belong to Greece constitutes the core of the current Aegean maritime disputes.
1.2. Geographical characteristics of the Aegean islands
The Aegean islands have some distinct geographical characteristics that are significant to the settlement of Aegean maritime disputes. First of all, due to their large number, the Greek islands constitute a very significant portion of the total coastal length of Greece. They have around 7,500 km coastal length in total. This figure counts for more than half of the whole Greek coastline and at least three fourths of the total Greek coastal length of 8,500 km in the Aegean Sea. On the other hand, Turkey’s Aegean islands Sea have a mere 679 km coastal length, which constitutes a very small portion of the total Turkish coastal length both in general and in the Aegean Sea.
A considerable number of the Aegean islands are very small islets and rocks with no human habitation. Some of them such as Crete, Evvia, Rhodes, Lesvos, Chios, Limnos and Samos are, however, quite sizeable and have a significant population. The rest of the Aegean islands are again different in terms of size, ranging from 10 km2 to 400 km2.
The Aegean islands demonstrate a special pattern in terms of their location as well and broadly constitute certain groups. They first group of islands is situated in the eastern section of an imaginary median line between the mainlands of Greece and Turkey and therefore are called the eastern Aegean islands. This group has two separate sub-groups depending on their location in this particular section.
The first sub-group is situated in the northeast Aegean Sea and may be named the northeast Aegean islands. Except for three islands, they are all Greek islands despite being situated much closer to the Turkish mainland. Some of these islands are situated further off the Turkish mainland and closer to the median line between the mainlands. Among the northeast Aegean islands, only the island of Thassos is on the western side of the mid distance point between the mainlands and is thus closer to the Greek mainland.
The second sub-group is situated in the southeast Aegean Sea which is called the southeast Aegean islands or, as widely known, the Dodecanese. Some of these islands are just a few miles or kilometres off the Turkish mainland, while others are further off but still to the east of the imaginary median line. The island of Rhodes within this group is relatively large and quite close to the Turkish mainland.
The second main category of the Aegean islands is situated to the west of the median line. These islands may accordingly be called the western Aegean islands. Unlike the eastern Aegean islands, they all belong to Greece with no exception. Again, this group can be considered as two separate sub-groups depending on their more specific locations. Some of them are situated in the northwest Aegean Sea and could accordingly be named as the northwest Aegean islands. Some of these islands are very close to the Greek mainland, while others are not so close. On the other hand, most of the western Aegean islands are situated in the south west so as to constitute the southwest Aegean islands. Generally speaking, some of these are very close to the Greek mainland. But most of them are located either somewhere between the Greek mainland and the median line or very close to or on this line.
The island of Crete and some of its surrounding islands are distinctive among the southwest Aegean islands. Unlike other islands in this area, they are to the south of the line that marks the end of the section where the mainland coasts are opposite to each other. They are not, therefore, between the mainlands. The island of Crete in particular is distinctive as it signifies the border between the Aegean Sea and the rest of the Mediterranean by being situated in the most southerly part of the Aegean Sea. It is also the largest Aegean island covering an area of 8,261 km2.
The geographical characteristics of the Aegean islands in terms of coastal length, size and location are therefore quite diverse. Some islands are very small or very large in size, or very close to the mainland or quite far away from it. These factors are significantly relevant to the determination of the role of islands within a delimitation process in general and thus within the delimitation in the Aegean Sea in particular.
2. Socio-Economic Characteristics of the Aegean Sea
2.1. The Aegean Sea as a whole
Greece and Turkey have long Aegean coastlines on which cities and towns, which are now populated with millions, have been grown. On the other hand, hundreds of Aegean islands have their own permanent population. The population directly associated with the Aegean Sea is therefore quite large.
As already noted above, the Aegean Sea is located at the heart of some major navigational roads connecting the Mediterranean Sea with the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea through the straits of Çanakkale and İstanbul. As the Aegean Sea is situated between the mainlands of Greece and Turkey, it also constitutes the only maritime link between the mainlands and hundreds of major Aegean islands.
The Aegean Sea moreover contains various mineral and natural resources. In this respect however, it has the general characteristics of the Mediterranean Sea which does not have major sea-bed deposits such as polymetallic nodules that have been found in very deep waters in the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans. Moreover, the Aegean Sea is not rich in terms of off-shore oil production like the Mediterranean Sea. The only area where there is actual oil production is around the Greek island of Thassos situated close to the Greek mainland in the northern Aegean.
The Aegean Sea is not rich in natural resources either. Among the seas surrounding the Turkish mainland, it constitutes one of the two poorest areas in terms of annual fish yield. The Greek fish production from the Aegean Sea is similarly poor. Greece harvests fish stocks mostly in mainland gulfs in the Aegean Sea, like the southern coast of the Peloponnesus and the fishing industry has never played an important role in the country’s economic development. The Aegean Sea is only notable in terms of the availability of some rare fish species.
The review on the socio-economic characteristics of the Aegean Sea therefore suggests that it is a significant sea area for at least two main reasons. First of all, it is associated with a considerable Greek and Turkish population. Secondly, it is situated at the centre of many significant navigational roads for both Greece and Turkey on the one hand, and other countries especially those around the Black Sea on the other. The Aegean Sea does not however possess considerable amounts of mineral and natural resources so as to make it significant in this context.
2.2. The Aegean islands
Unlike the mainland coasts, the Aegean islands do not have large populations. The population of the islands, especially those in the eastern Aegean decreased considerably before the 1980s due to the economic and social difficulties. They gradually lost their population to both the mainland Greece and other countries. Especially in the 1960s and the 1970s, most of them lost a significant portion of their labour force to industrialised countries of Europe, mainly Germany as only a few islands were prosperous enough to support their population.
However, developing tourism in the region and the growing unemployment in those European countries allowing emigration have caused improvements in the demography in the last two decades. While the population of the eastern Aegean islands was 428,533 in 1981, it had gone up to 456,712 by 1991. It thus signifies a shift towards an increasing population in the last two decades. The rate of the immigration to the islands is now higher than the average to the mainland.
However, the size of the population, which is no more than one and half million, is still not high compared to the overall picture. Excluding Evvia, which could be considered as being integrated into the mainland, the Aegean islands constitute around 10% of the total Greek population. The population of the eastern Aegean islands which are closer to the Turkish mainland constitutes only 5% of Greece’s total population. Moreover, the Aegean Greek islands differ considerably in terms of the number of people they accommodate, though most of the islands still have a very small population.
The economy of the islands has always been confined to agriculture, producing traditional products such as olives, wheat, wine, tobacco and mastic. Fisheries has not been important in the economic livelihood of the islanders, as the Aegean Sea as a whole is not rich in fish stocks. The Turkish islands of Bozcaada and Gökçeada are no exception in this regard. The living standard in the Aegean islands does not seem to have significantly improved in recent years. Growing traditional agricultural products is still the main occupation. Industry is on a very small scale and mostly related to processing agricultural products. The islands inevitably depend heavily on the mainland for their livelihood.
The only improvement has been the developing tourism in recent years. In 1984, only 5.5 million tourists visited Greece as a whole but the number had doubled by 1994. The number of tourists coming to the Aegean islands has also increased significantly. The ongoing European and Greek policies on regional development seem to be helping the Aegean islands to attract more tourists.
3. Under-Water Structure of the Aegean Sea
Like the above factors, the factors that are related to the sea-bed features of the Aegean Sea are similarly relevant to the settlement of the Aegean maritime disputes. The identification of such features in any given case is a highly technical task. It is therefore necessary to establish first of all the relevant technical information before examining the sea-bed features of the Aegean Sea.
3.1. Oceanic and continental crusts
The earth’s crust is divided into “continental” and “oceanic” crusts in general terms. They are separated from each other on the basis of distinct physical and compositional characteristics. In physical terms, while the continental crust is between 30-80 km in depth, the oceanic crust is only 8 km in depth. On the surface, oceanic basins are characterised in physical terms by circum-oceanic systems of abyssal plains that are occasionally dented by trenches and ridges. These sediment-covered abyssal plains lie between the ridges and trenches, or between a variety of hills and plateaux, some of which break the water surface as islands. In compositional terms, the continental crust is rich in silicon and aluminium while the oceanic crust is relatively poorer in these substances.
The physical and compositional differences between the oceanic and the continental crusts seem to be the natural consequences of how and when they were formed over a period of millions of years as in the case of any other structures in the earth’s crust. It is undisputed that the continental crust is much older than the oceanic crust. However, theories differ how they have evolved. According to an early theory of the “continental drift”, various super-continents existed in the past, to be split apart and amalgamated many times. However, this is not considered to be a convincing explanation due to the lack of a reasonable mechanism for the process. “Plate tectonics” is the most-approved theory, according to which about twenty major rigid “plates” in the “lithosphere” of the earth are all in motion with respect to adjoining plates at speeds of several centimetres per year.
Generally speaking, as far as the motions between the oceanic and the continental crusts are concerned, the ocean plate, which is more rigid, moves gradually over a long period of time underneath the continental plate which is relatively less rigid. Eventually, as the oceanic plate goes underneath the continental crust, volcanic and/or tectonic activities emerge, which cause volcanic eruption or arc-shaped protuberances on the surface. Such a process seems to be capable of explaining how the earth’s crust has evolved into many different shapes including the emergence and disappearances of new sea areas.
The continental and oceanic crusts are not however separated from each other on the shore. They are separated from each other on the basis of certain characteristics. In between the ocean basin and the continent there exists an area called the “continental margin”. It is in fact regarded as the extension of the continents underneath the water as a part of it. In terms of shape and composition, the continental margin is different from the ocean basin and is more reminiscent of the continental crust.
The continental margin is divided into there separate units. These are the “continental shelf”, the “continental slope” and the “continental rise”. The continental shelf extends from the shore to a depth of 120-180 metres below sea-level. From the reach of the continental shelf, the surface drops markedly as a submarine slope thus called the continental slope. It goes down to a depth of 1800 metres on average. Then its slant becomes less, and the continental rise at the foot of the continental slope leads gently to the ocean floor.
3.2. Conflicting views of Turkey and Greece on the Aegean sea-floor
Despite such a straightforward definition, it may be difficult in many sea areas to separate where the oceanic crust starts and where the continental crust, as signified by the continental margin underneath the sea, ends. It seems that the Aegean Sea constitutes such a case given the fact that there are conflicting opinions on defining a line which would separate continental and oceanic crusts in the Aegean Sea.
According to Greece, as the Aegean Sea is not an ocean, its sea-floor is different from the oceanic crusts. Greece argues that the Aegean Sea is a “depressed saucer”, the mountain tops of which are islands. Such seas like the Adriatic and Black Sea, do not, according to Greece, have a natural boundary that would separate the continental crust from the oceanic crust. Greece accepts that the Aegean sea-floor is broken by crevasses but refuses to accept a natural break in the geophysical structure that could be regarded as creating two continental margins, one of Europe and one of Asia Minor. This is to say that the Aegean Sea does not have separate continental shelf areas, but constitutes a continuous geophysical structure. Therefore, the situation in the Aegean Sea, according to Greece, is that no part of it can be regarded as a natural prolongation of any country, Greece or Turkey.
On the other hand, according to Turkey, scientific data shows that there is a natural boundary that divides the Aegean into separate parts. Turkey takes the view that there is a zone of discontinuity that joins the eastern portions of the larger dome located south of the island of Crete. This diagonal zone divides the Aegean into two different parts around 23.50 East, 400 North. It gently turns to the East and reaches the positive anomaly zone following the Anatolian Trough. This zone, according to Turkey, constitutes the natural boundary as the bottom of this depression displays traces of oceanic crust in some places.
Turkey points out moreover that the geological date indicates compositional similarities between the sea-bed east of the major depression and the Turkish mainland territory. In this connection, it is also argued that the Greek islands situated east of this natural boundary sit on the sea-bed that is the natural extension of the Turkish landmass under the sea. In support of this argument, it has been pointed out that the maritime space between the islands and the Turkish mainland is so shallow that it is like a flooded part of the latter. Moreover, geologically, there is a clear identity between the sea-bed east of the major depression and the Turkish land territory.
These geomorphological facts, according to Turkey, suggest that the zone in its mid-section of the Aegean Sea running from north to south constitutes a natural maritime frontier between natural prolongations of the mainlands of Greece and Turkey. Accordingly, islands on the east of this boundary are situated on the natural prolongation of Turkey.
3.3. The Aegean sea-floor
The Aegean Sea is different even from the rest of the Mediterranean in physical terms. The sea-floor of the Mediterranean Sea is mostly smooth. The Aegean Sea-floor is, however, dominated by steeps and trenches especially around the island of Crete. There are trenches of 2.500 km into the south of the island. Moreover, the Aegean Sea is a relatively shallow sea. The average depth is around 350 meters while it is 1,500 in the Mediterranean.
The characteristics of the Aegean sea-bed, like any other sea areas, are closely linked to when the Aegean Sea started to evolve and how it evolved. There is an agreement of opinions that the Aegean Sea emerged relatively recently. There are however different theories on the processes of evolution. One theory concentrates on the activities of three different volcanoes in various areas in this process. Another and more held theory explains the evaluation according to tectonic activities.
The approach of both theories is in fact similar in the sense that the Aegean Sea has evolved as a result of the movements and stress underneath the earth’s crust which eventually caused volcanic movements, eruptions, depressions or elevations. These activities gave the Aegean Sea its distinctive sea-floor structure that is dominated by block rifts which prevented a clear development of the continental slope and continental rise. Since all these happened in a relatively recent geological age, the Aegean Sea, unlike older sea areas, has not yet completed the process of oceanisation. As a result, except in some limited areas, there is no oceanic crust. Thus, it is difficult to draw a clear and undisputed line that would naturally separate the continental and the oceanic crusts underneath the water.
However some still believe that there is a process of oceanisation in the area which lies through the Aegean Sea from north to south. This is an area that almost coincides with a median line between the mainland of Greece and Turkey.
These views seem to be based on the second theory mentioned above that provides that the Aegean plate is separated from that of the Europe with a boundary. This boundary crosses the Sea of Marmara and stretches the northern Aegean Sea as far as the mainland Greece near the island of Evvia. A deep trough in this area is established as indicated by large magnetic anomalies. Therefore, from the point of view of plate tectonics, this feature is a ridge although it is different from most oceanic ridges and the rest of the Mediterranean.
Most of the Turkish scientists believe that said zone in the Aegean constitutes the geological and/or geomorphological boundary. They produce some more of justifications for this view. It is pointed out that the Aegean abyssal areas are reminiscent of the ocean floor. Secondly, it represents the area where the magnetic and gravity anomalies in the Aegean Sea change their direction. Thirdly, the deep trench is in accordance with the Aegean coastline. Moreover, this area is relatively poor in terms of the number of islands and fish stock, indicating that this area is biologically different.
On the other hand, some studies have revealed a geological unity between the islands in the eastern Aegean Sea and the Turkish mainland. This is clearly the case with the southeast Aegean islands. This information suggests that they are part of the same plate as the Turkish mainland, supporting the idea that there is a natural boundary on the Aegean Sea-floor as described above, although it is different from the zones that clearly separate the continental shelves of neighbouring countries in the oceans or in the Mediterranean.
Consequently, the characteristics of the Aegean Sea do not present a clear separation between the oceanic and continental crusts, so that natural prolongations of Greece and Turkey cannot be separated clearly. One particular feature of the Aegean Sea-bed, which is described above, may be taken as the natural boundary separating the natural prolongations but this does not change that fact that, its role within a delimitation process in the Aegean Sea could still be complicated due to existing controversy.
B. Legal Characteristics of the Aegean Sea
As indicated in the Introduction, the legal status of the Aegean Sea is still characterised by settled and unsettled matters. The disputed matters emerge in two different forms. Firstly, there are disputes over the application of some international regulations which have previously been established on the status of the Aegean Sea. In this context, one side disputes the other side’s conduct of a certain provision or provisions. Secondly, other disputes concern the issues that have not previously been addressed in any binding accord. In such a case, there are matters of regulation which still cause disagreements between the two States.
How the disagreements have developed and what elements are involved in the settled and unsettled issues are quite relevant for both the description of the maritime disputes and the examination of possible legal settlements, which are reviewed next.
1. Sovereignty over the Aegean Islands
1.1. The settled aspects
The sovereignty over the Aegean islands was established with various international accords in the years after Greece emerged as an independent State from the Ottoman Empire in 1829. Following the recognition of independent Greece by the Ottoman Empire in April 1830, the Aegean islands that had previously belonged to the Ottoman Empire were simply divided into two categories. The western Aegean islands were left to Greece. The eastern Aegean islands and the island of Crete remained under Ottoman sovereignty. However, the island of Crete was later declared autonomous in 1898 and was then united with Greece by the Greek population of the island in 1908.
The situation was further changed during the Italio-Turkish War of 1911-12. When Italy launched an attack on the Ottoman territories of Tripoli and Benghazi, it also captured Rhodes and the Dodecanese, the southeast Aegean islands. Italy agreed to return these islands to the Ottoman Empire with the 1912 Treaty of Ushi in return for taking Tripoli and Benghazi from the Ottomans.
During the Balkan Wars of 1912-13, the rest of the eastern Aegean islands were occupied by Greece. The Ottoman Empire officially ceded Crete to Greece and left the other Aegean islands “to the decision of the Great Powers” with the London Protocol of 17 May 1913, which was concluded after these wars, The so called Great Powers decided to leave the Dodecanese, except for Meis, to Italy. They also decided to leave the eastern Aegean islands, except for the islands of Imbros and Tenedos, to Greece.
The Lausanne Peace Treaty, one of the instruments which were concluded by the Lausanne Peace Conference, confirmed these previous regulations. According to the Treaty, only the islands of Imbros, Tenedos, the Rabbit Islands and those within 3 miles of the Asiatic coast were left under Turkish sovereignty.
The final development concerning the regulations on the sovereignty over the Aegean islands took place after World War II. During the War, all the Aegean islands fell under German occupation in 1941. However, the Aegean islands were later captured by the Allies. After the War, the islands that were under Greek sovereignty before the War were returned to Greece by the 1947 Paris Peace Treaty that established the post-war situation. Moreover, the Treaty also ceded the Dodecanese, which were under Italian sovereignty before the War and belonged previously to Ottoman Empire, to Greece.
As a result of all these developments, Greece, at the present time, possesses sovereignty over almost all the Aegean islands, even those that are situated very close to the Turkish mainland. On the other hand, Turkey possesses only the islands of Gökçeada, Bozcaada, Tavşan (Rabbit Islands) and those which are within 3 miles of the Turkish coast.
1.2. The disputed aspects
It seems, however, that the above treaties have not settled the sovereignty issue in the Aegean Sea beyond all doubt. Greece and Turkey do not actually agree on the interpretation of provisions of the above-mentioned international agreements.
The major disagreement concerns certain articles in the Lausanne Peace Treaty. Article 12 of the Treaty provides that all the eastern Aegean islands, except for the islands of Gökçeada, Bozcaada, Rabbit Islands and those that were put under the sovereignty of Italy by Article 15 of the Treaty, belong to Greece. The Article moreover provides that “Unless there is a contrary provision in the present Treaty, all the islands which are less than 3 miles distance from the Asiatic coast will stay under Turkish sovereignty.”
Article 12 of the Lausanne Treaty is perceived by Greece to mean that all the islands beyond 3 miles of the Turkish coast were left to Greece with the exception of Bozcaada, Gökçeada, Rabbit Islands and those within the distance of 3 miles to the Turkish mainland.
The same article is however interpreted quite differently by Turkey. Turkey accepts that the Treaty clearly leaves the islands of Gökçeada, Bozcaada, Rabbit Islands and those within 3 miles distance from the Turkish mainland to Turkey. However, it rejects the Greek view that all the islands beyond 3 miles, except Gökçeada, Bozcaada and Rabbit Islands were left to Greece. Turkey emphasises that only those that are beyond 3 miles and are clearly named by the Treaty should be deemed as being left to Greece. All the others that are not explicitly mentioned as Greek islands and are beyond 3 miles from the Turkish mainland should be regarded as having been inherited by Turkey, which is the successor of the Ottoman Empire. The number of these islands is said to be well over 100. Turkey argues moreover that, even if this were not the case, the issue of sovereignty over such islands should be determined by Greece and Turkey together.
It seems that the two States are also in disagreement over the interpretation of other international agreements relating to the Aegean islands. A Turkish registered ship ran aground on 25 December 1995 on the Kardak (İkizce) Rocks, named Imia (Limnia) Rocks by Greece. The ship’s crew refused to receive help from Greek rescuers on the basis that these rocks belonged to Turkey. Turkey backed this stance by issuing a statement to Greece which provided that the Kardak Rocks were Turkish territory as recorded in the property lists of the Turkish administrative region of Muğla. Greece on the other hand argued that these rocks were under Greek sovereignty. This caused high tension in the following months and almost resulted in conflict.
The Kardak Rocks are situated in the southeast Aegean. The eastern Kardak is situated 3.6 miles off the Turkish mainland while the western Kardak is situated 3.9 miles off. They are about 5.5 miles off the nearest major Greek island of Kalymnos. These rocks are quite small covering an area of 19,730 squaremeters and 16,680 squaremeters respectively.
When the Lausanne Peace Treaty confirmed the Italian sovereignty over these islands, it did not mention by name all the islands, especially those that are relatively very small. Italy and Turkey signed an agreement on 4 January 1932 to settle such obscurities. The Agreement regulated the sovereignty in Articles 1 to 4 over the islands and islets situated in the area between the island of Castellorizo and neighbouring islands and the coast of Anatolia by enumerating these islands and islets by name. It also established, in Article 5, a line to delimit the territorial waters (delimitation des eaux territoriales) between the coast of Anatolia and the island of Castellorizo and its adjacent islets. In both cases, these articles did not mention the Kardak Rocks which are in fact situated further north.
The two countries later signed a protocol (procés-verbal) on 28 December of the same year which mentioned the Kardak Rocks as being to the west of the delimitation line, and thus as belonging to Italy. Turkey argues that Greece accepted as early as 1952 that there was vagueness over the validity of this second document. According to Turkey, the supplementary agreement of 28 December 1932 (Procés-Verbal) did not acquire the status of a legally binding agreement, since the document never came into force. Therefore, there is nothing to which Greece could be successor. Turkey argues that the document was neither discussed nor validated (ratified) by the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TGNA), which is essential for an international treaty to become binding for Turkey. Moreover, Turkey pointed out that it was not registered by the League of Nations as an international agreement and thus lacked the necessary condition of Article 18 of the Covenant of the League to become a legally binding agreement.
Greece, on the other hand, contends that the December 1932 document is a legally valid agreement and thus binding to Turkey. Greek officials emphasise the link between the two documents signed by Turkey and Italy in 1932. Greece argues that, since the first agreement, which was signed on 4 January 1932, was ratified and validated by the Turkish Parliament, it was not necessary to ratify the document of December 1932 which is, according to Greece, only supplementary to the former. Therefore, Greece concludes that the Kardak Rocks were left by this agreement to Greece as the successor State.
The second basis of this Greek contention is Article 12 of the Lausanne Peace Treaty which left Turkey only those islands that are within the 3-mile limit. The Kardak Rocks belong to Greece since they are 3.5 miles off the Turkish coast.
In the final account, sovereignty over some islands in the Aegean Sea is a disputed issue. Settlement of this issue is a necessity towards the settlement of the maritime issues simply because the determination of a precise maritime boundary for the territorial waters or the continental shelf and the EEZ depends on completely settled sovereignty matters.
2. Demilitarised Status of Some Aegean Islands
Various international conventions regulating the status of the Aegean islands provide for the demilitarisation of the eastern Aegean islands near the Turkish mainland. For the sake of a clear understanding of the issue, it is necessary to classify them according to the related international agreements.
As authorised by Greece and the Ottoman Empire through the London Protocol of 17 May 1913, the so-called Great Powers decided on 13 February 1914 that the islands which were to be left to Greece should not be deployed or used for military-naval purposes. These were the islands situated in the eastern Aegean Sea except for the Dodecanese, which were then under Italian sovereignty and the islands left to Turkey.
Article 12 of the Lausanne Treaty approved the Decision of the Great Powers. Moreover, Article 13 of the Treaty specifically provided that the islands of Lesvos, Chios, Samos and Ikaria could not be deployed and naval bases could not be established on them. The Article also limited the number of police and soldiers that could be kept on these islands.
The Lausanne Convention on Straits, which was signed at the same time as the Lausanne Peace Treaty, provided for demilitarisation of certain areas around the straits concerned and put some more military restrictions on the islands which were situated in the mouth of the Çanakkale Strait. The regulation of the Convention explicitly referred to the islands of Samothrace, Limnos, Gökçeada, Bozcaada and Rabbit Islands. Therefore, unlike the Peace Treaty, the Treaty on Straits also demilitarised the Turkish islands that are situated in this area.
A new convention on the Turkish straits was signed in 1936, called the Montreux Convention on Straits, which inaugurated a new regime for the straits. Although it concerns the same straits and abolishes the demilitarisation of all the areas around the straits, it does not explicitly abolish the demilitarisation status of the islands of Samothrace, Limnos, Gökçeada, Bozcaada and Rabbit Islands, which was provided in explicit terms by the Lausanne Convention on Straits. Even if it did so, it would not be significant as these islands had already been demilitarised by the still-valid regulations before the Lausanne Convention.
Another international agreement that provides for demilitarisation of some other eastern Aegean islands is the 1947 Treaty of Paris which ceded the Dodecanese group to Greece. The Treaty also provided that these islands should be cleared of soldiers and be kept so. It is therefore now a condition that Greece must keep these islands demilitarised as a result of the Paris Peace Treaty.
Despite all these regulations, Greece began to militarise the eastern Aegean islands in the 1950s and has intensified such activities in recent years. Greece had previously denied militarising these islands but now openly admits having done so. This Greek action has inevitably led to opposition from the Turkish side. Turkey considers the Greek actions as being in contradiction with the relevant international arrangements demilitarising the eastern Aegean islands.
Greece, however, puts forward certain justifications for its actions. It purports that as the conditions that once necessitated these measures radically changed, it may now legally militarise these islands. Secondly, it argues that it militarises these islands for the purpose of self-defence, as there is a threat from Turkey against these islands. Thirdly Greece may legitimately militarise the islands which were named by the Lausanne Convention on the Straits because the Montreux Convention, which, according to Greece, replaced the former, does not provide for a new status of demilitarisation of these islands. Finally, Turkey cannot, according to Greece, challenge the militarisation of the Dodecanese since Turkey is not a party to the Peace Treaty of 1947.
Therefore it has yet to be determined whether Greece can legitimately militarise the eastern Aegean islands that have been demilitarised by certain international conventions. The issue may seem to be irrelevant to the maritime disputes. However, considering that security considerations are relevant to the delimitation of maritime areas, the issue is relevant in the final account.
The Aegean Sea is in this sense similar to the Adriatic Sea which is another arm of the Mediterranean Sea. See Appendix I, Map 1.
See Appendix II, Table 2.
This group of islands excluding the Turkish islands of Bozcaada and Gökçeada is known by Greece the “Aegean Islands”. For these islands, see Appendix II, Table 3.
See Appendix I, Map 1. These islands are also called the South Sporadhes. For the major islands of this group, see Appendix II, Table 4.
See Appendix I, Map 1. Named the North Sporadhes (Voriai Sporadhes) by Greece, these islands are as follows: Skiros (Sykros), Skopelos (Skopelos), Alonissos, Skiathos, Kyra Panagia, Peristera, and Yiura (Yura). Statistical Yearbook of Greece, 1996. pp. 28-29.; The Times, Concise Atlas of the World, pp. 46-47.
Named the Kyklades by Greece, they are as follows: Naxos, Andros, Paros, Tinos, Milos, Kea, Amorgos, Ios, Kythnos, Mykonos, Syros, Sifnos, Thira, Serifos, Sikinos, Anafi, Kimonos, Antiparos, Folegandros, Iraklia, Yaros, Makronissos, Polyegos, Keros, Rinia, Donoussa, Thirassia, Despotiko, Dilos. Statistical Yearbook of Greece, 1996. pp. 28-29; The Times, Concise Atlas of the World, pp. 46-47.
Many others, i.e. Serifos, Milos, Folegandros, are half way between the median line and the Greek mainland. Only a few of them are located in the east of the median line and close to it such as Donoussa, Karos, Amorgos, Anidhros, Ofidusa, Anafi, Makra and Pakia. See Appendix I, Map 1.
Evvia is the second largest Aegean island that is almost geographically an integral part of eastern Greece. It covers an area of 3,654 km2 and had a population of 208,410 in 1991.
See, ibid., p. 58-59. Only the sponge industry of Kalimnos has been worth noting. Walker, (1965), pp. 367-368.
In the negotiations held between Greece and Turkey in Berne (Switzerland) which is the only detailed negotiations on the Aegean continental shelf issue held between the two countries, Turkey submitted the following information about the Aegean geomorphology: “Detailed mathematical maps of the Aegean Sea have been made by several institutions and are freely available. On these maps it is clearly observed that a very broad almost horizontal shallow area extends off the coast of W. Turkey into the Aegean Sea. Greek islands such as Limnos, A. Evstratios, Lesvos, Chios, Ikaria and Kos are simple elevations on the horizontal broad platform. These Anatolian coastal islands do not have any submarine morphological feature which would show that they have their own shelf....these islands have similar geology with Turkey and they are geological continuation of the Turkish mainland. ....This zone joins the eastern portions of the larger dome located south of the island of Crete. This diagonal zone divides the Aegean into two parts and around 23.50 East and 400 North. It gently turns to the East and reaches the positive anomaly zone following the Anatolian Trough.” Section of Geological Data of Turkish Position during the Berne Meeting as Dictated by Professor Arpat, 2 February 1976, in Pleadings, p. 169.
Erinç and Yücel, (1978), pp. 11-14.
The island of Crete is the result of the same process but is not closely associated with the Turkish mainland. Higgins and Higgins, (1996), pp. 121, 151-159, 194, 197.
The then Greek Foreign Minster, T. Pangalos stated that all these islands are part of Greece by virtue of the Treaty of Lausanne (1923), and the Peace Treaty of Paris (1947). The Statement of Greek Foreign Minster, T. Pangalos, 28 April 1998, as given in a main Greek television bulletin.
The Turkish President, S. Demirel was reported to have said that “There are some 132 rocks or islets in the Aegean, we refer to them as ‘grey areas’”. Namely, it has not been defined through agreements to whom they belong. We have said : “They do not belong to Greece”. Quoted in Relations Between Turkey and European Union. For more details, see Karamahmut, (1998), especially pp. 6-19. Some have reported that Turkey questioned the sovereignty over 152 islets in the Aegean Sea. The Milliyet Newspaper, 3 June 1999. According to one of the memorandums submitted to the EU Council by Greece regarding Turkey’s attitude on 26 March 1998, it was revealed that about a month ago Turkish authorities notified Greece that they question the sovereignty of four Greek islets in the eastern Aegean, namely, Fourni, Agathonisi, Farmakonissi and Pserimos. The Statement of Greek Foreign Minster T. Pangalos, 28 April 1998 as given in a main Greek television bulletin. There are many other islands such as Gavdos whose name was explicitly referred as disputed islands. The Statement of the Turkish Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ö. Akbel. 5 June 1996.