Turkey has faced threats to her maritime security starting from the early years of the Republic. Although many issues in the Adalar (Aegean) Sea had been resolved with the 1923 Lausanne Peace Treaty, Greece has strayed away from the provisions of the Lausanne Peace Treaty starting from 1936. Ever since then, Greece has kept making unlawful demands against Turkey in a manner which violated the international law. Accordingly, Greece took unlawful steps by laying claims to EGAYDAAK (Islands, Islets, and Rocks whose sovereignty has not been transferred to Greece by Treaties), the extension of territorial waters beyond what has been set by the Lausanne treaty, and the militarization of the islands which are supposed to be under the demilitarized status according to 1912-1913 London Conference, 1923 Lausanne Peace Treaty along with 1947 Paris Peace Treaty. Greece is also the only country in the entire world whose air space is larger than its territorial waters! Let us visualize what I just said together. You can cruise on the international waters if you are 6 nautical miles off of a Greek island, yet you cannot launch a helicopter off of that boat because the Greek air space illogically extends further from the length of its territorial waters with stopping at 10 nautical miles…
In addition to these developments which concern the Adalar (Aegean) Sea, Greece and Its long-time partner Greek Cypriot Administration of Southern Cyprus (GCASC) have attempted to enforce the Seville Map on Turkey. Seville Map was prepared by the University of Seville in the early 2000’s with the encouragement of the European Union. Its goal is to show the maritime areas of the European Union member countries, including the so-called maritime areas of GCASC and Greece in the Eastern Mediterranean. According to the Seville Map, Greece, and GCASC desire to imprison Turkey, the country with the longest coastline of 2280 kilometers in the Eastern Mediterranean, to the Gulf of Antalya, which is an area of 41,000 km2. Their main aim is to erode the rights of other riparian states, including Turkey’s rights on her maritime jurisdiction areas, in contravention of all the principles of international law and maritime law. I have written many articles on how this Seville Map allocating the rightful maritime areas of other riparian states like Libya, Egypt and Israel to Greece and GCASC instead. Some of these countries have realized how they have been tricked into an unjust share and they are now taking appropriate measures to ensure their lawful rights.
Even though Greece has no coastlines in the eastern part of the Mediterranean, unfortunately the EU and other states in the region (some of which are the states that are exposed to the corrosive policies of the GCASC and Greece) still support Greece’s and GCASC’s unlawful maximalist drive in the Eastern Mediterranean. Let’s not forget that Greece is not an island state (Archipelagic State), it is a mainland state with islands, which are two very different realities in the eyes of international maritime law.
To conclude, Turkey faces maritime threats in the Adalar (Aegean) Sea due to Greece’s revisionist and maximalist demands. In the Eastern Mediterranean Sea the same can be said due to a joint maximalist effort of the GCASC and Greece. However, it should be noted that Turkey is not a country that will waive her maritime jurisdiction areas and her rights rooted firmly in international law.
First of all, Turkey is a distinguished member of NATO. Turkey is not only the second largest army in NATO but ever since she has become a member in 1952, she has contributed to a great extent to NATO’s missions. Turkey has conducted innumerable trainings within NATO to strengthen the alliance and its organizational identity. As Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg often stresses, we are a very important member in the alliance. In that sense Turkey’s cooperation with NATO is an unquestionable fact. I think there isn’t a question regarding Turkey’s desire to remain in NATO. Member countries may have varying opinions and policies regarding different issues, but in its essence any international institution would welcome difference of opinion and navigate between voices to arrive at the most beneficial position to all.
Secondly, it is an advantage for Russia to have a friend, such as Turkey, as a member in NATO. Therefore, I would say that it is more beneficial for not only Turkey but also for her friends, if Turkey remains in NATO. After all, Turkey is a stabilizing element in the region who helps to maintain the balance.
Just like any other developed sovereign country out there, Turkey desires to expand the projection capacity of her Navy as well. We can already see that Turkey is taking concrete steps to actualize this aim of hers. For example, several projects are initiated and are being developed right now, to domestically manufacture and develop navy ships of varying classes. Not only that, but there is a great effort to develop technology by national means. Possessing a “blue water” ocean fleet will be the result of this tenacious process, which Turkey is willingly striving towards. With the experience gained through the construction and development processes of domestic corvettes, frigates, and most recently Turkey’s first light aircraft carrier/amphibious assault ship TCG Anadolu, Turkey is making more than promising progress in route to have a “blue water” ocean fleet.
Turkey aims to have a fleet capacity which will match the attributes of a “Medium Global Force Projection Navy”. For such level of operationality, an aircraft carrier is a requirement for the fleet, so if one considers Turkey’s aims, one can see that an aircraft carrier is not only desired but required. Furthermore, if Turkey were to have was an aircraft carrier in her Navy, she would be more efficient in emitting a stabilizing effect across the globe. Aside from Turkey to have goals of building her own aircraft carrier, perhaps until she actualizes such a project she can buy one instead.
Turkey aims to build her own amphibious and/or air craft carrier with the purpose of contributing to the global and regional security, peace and stability. Turkey wants to help in maintaining the regional and global security. I underline that Turkey does not have any offensive or threatening intentions with her own ambitions. Turkey’s aims are sincere in desiring to contribute to peace, security and stability of our region and our world. As the founder of the Turkish Republic Atatürk has said “ peace at home, peace in the world”. This is our national motto.
Most forget that Turkey’s plan to build warships with national means was a plan which jumpstarted in the early 1990’s. This isn’t a new idea. In line with this plan, the MILGEM (National Ship) project has emerged. Turkey’s aim was to develop its national military shipbuilding capacity while gaining skills at the same time. The point she has reached today is very promising, for now Turkey is not only building her own, but also is exporting the ships she manufactures. The list is not merely limited to ships but, patrol boats, missile boats, REIS class submarines are also within the scope of domestically manufactures assets.
NATO members already do the very exact thing we are talking about here. France, USA, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom and others all have their own national capacity to build and export their military technology. In that sense, of course the progress made in Turkey’s defense industry does not harm her relations with NATO. Not only are these developments necessary to make the leaps to solidify Turkey’s national security but all these projects are carried out in consideration with NATO standards. Turkey is a powerful and sovereign state and has the same rights as any other NATO member state who produce its own weapons. Once again this is an undebatable reality.
Saying that Turkey will welcome all approaches to jointly develop navy air and weapon platforms.
Turkey’s main objective in her maritime strategy is to defend her Blue Homeland. Blue Homeland is a term which encompass Turkey’s territorial waters, inland waters and maritime jurisdiction areas such as the exclusive economic zone and the continental shelf. As I have said before, Turkey is facing an irrational approach from Greece in the Adalar (Aegean) Sea and from Greece, GCASC along with some other EU members like France in the Eastern Mediterranean. Against such irrational approaches, Turkey defends her rights and interests in her surrounding seas by utilizing strategies within the framework of Blue Homeland Doctrine that is firmly rooted in international law. What is attempted to be enforced on Turkey in the Adalar Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean Sea is a proposed delimitation which violates the core principles of international law that actually govern the very process of delimitation of maritime jurisdiction areas. These principles are called equitability, proportionality, non-encroachment and the principle of land domination over sea. Turkey also has a list of cases from the ICJ and ICA that support her stance. Thus, knowing that Turkey has law on her side, she is standing firmly against any attempts to devoid her citizens and her next generations from their respective rights which stem from law and geography.
Turkey also wants to increase the Turkish Navy’s force projection capability from where it is in the “Medium Regional Force Projection Navy” to where she aims to reach, the “Medium Global Force Projection Navy”. In this direction, Turkey aims to contribute to the establishment of peace and security around the world as a full-fledged “blue water” navy.
Currently in the Eastern Mediterranean there is one administration at play (GCASC) and three riparian states; Libya, Israel and Egypt. The Greek Cypriot Administration of Southern Cyprus is not recognized by Turkey and therefore are not our interlocutors. Although if the problems between the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and the Greek Cypriot administration of Southern Cyprus will be resolved, then Turkey may recognize and address them. Yet until then they are not Turkey’s interlocutor.
There are also non-riparian states that are active in the Eastern Mediterranean; Greece, France, Jordan, and the UAE, who have all formed a diplomatic alliance against Turkey. This alliance’s main objectives are: 1) To imprison Turkey in the Gulf of Antalya, an area of 41,000 km2, 2) To make diplomatic efforts to prevent Turkey from benefiting from her rights granted to her by law.
For this purpose, several regional countries and some international organizations are cooperating to isolate Turkey in the region. This irrational and unlawful cooperation, which argues that Turkey, the state with the longest coastal length in the Eastern Mediterranean, should be cornered in the small jurisdiction area of only 41,000 km2 due to a 10 km2 Greek island, which one cannot even pinpoint on the map, is absurd at best and ill-intentioned at worst. This odd grouping is also pursuing anti-Turkey policies and rhetoric in every relevant and irrelevant issue. We can summarize this as a maladaptive anti-Turkey fixation which will inevitably hinder its perpetrators.
One of the concrete examples of the attempts to isolate Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean is the foundation of the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum in Cairo with members and observers. Sounds normal right? Yet Turkey, with the longest coast to the Eastern Mediterranean was not even invited to this forum. It should be noted that; no project or initiative which takes place without the Republic of Turkey or the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus can ever obtain a chance to be successful in this region. This isn’t an ill-intentioned statement; it is merely a fact based in reality.
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