The Myopic Sight of Captain Norris



So to speak it is ridiculous to began the analysis with 2011 Turkey – TRNC the Delimitation Agreement of Maritime Jurisdictions in the Eastern Mediterranean. I would like to kindly help him in order to remember the storyline in regards to increasing tension in the region. Mr. Norris points out a “de facto situation” by saying that “the maritime boundary it negotiated with Turkey constitutes the current de facto maritime boundary between the island of Cyprus and Turkey”. In that case, we need to ask whether Turkish side of Cyprus takes a part in 2003, 2007 and 2010 EEZ Agreements of the Southern Cyprus or not.


Turkey – TRNC EEZ Agreement made in 2011 is not the independent variable of this crisis and soaring tension today in the Eastern Mediterranean because the reasons of all these happenings in the Eastern Mediterranean are illegal, incompatible with equitable principles and unilateral political steps of the Southern Cyprus since early 2000s. Actually, all of these EEZ Agreements of the Southern Cyprus has shaped a de facto conjuncture nowadays around the island. The Southern Cyprus does not have the authority to negotiate an international agreement unilaterally and to decide on behalf of Turkey and TRNC in the island of Cyprus.


The Southern Cyprus has performed unilateral activities by ignoring TRNC and conducted a policy which reshapes the maritime jurisdictions according to only its own interests as maximal as possible. The Greek Administration of Southern Cyprus made Exclusive Economic Zone Agreements with Egypt in 2003, with Lebanon in 2007 and finally with Israel in 2010 by ignoring the rights of TRNC and Turkey as well. If you look for de facto situations, you may find whatever you look for here, Mr. Norris. The map formed by de facto agreements is below;



According to international maritime law, it is predicated mainlands in delimitating the maritime jurisdictions. Therefore, the interlocutor of Egypt to delimitate maritime zones in the Eastern Mediterranean must be Turkey in compliance with geography because Turkey and Egypt are visibly adjacent states in the Eastern Mediterranean (see the map below).




Besides, The Greek Cypriot Administration of Southern Cyprus has extorted large maritime zones from Lebanon, Israel and Egypt with one’s eyes open. If Egypt made an EEZ Agreement with Turkey instead of the Southern Cyprus that does not have the legitimacy to negotiate unilaterally, it could gain more than 11,500 square kilometers of maritime jurisdictions in the region. The agreement was not be determined according to equidistance principle of international maritime law.


Mr. Norris says that Turkey’s assertion that “islands which lie on the wrong side of the median line between two mainlands cannot create maritime jurisdiction areas beyond their territorial waters” is completely unsupported by UNCLOS Article 121(2), which reflects the customary international law rule that “islands, regardless of their size . . . enjoy the same status, and thus generate the same maritime rights, as other land territory”. Nonetheless, Mr. Norris misses out that 1982 UNCLOS that Greece is also party state, discriminates between archipelagic states (see also Article 46, 47) and other states. According to 1982 UNCLOS, baselines have to be primarily determined for delimitation of maritime jurisdictions among adjacent states, if there is no baselines or baselines are not clear, maritime zones cannot be designated or specified.


At first, it must be remarked that Article 7(1) of UNCLOS indicates that “in localities where the coastline is deeply indented and cut into, or if there is a fringe of islands along the coast in its immediate vicinity, the method of straight baselines joining appropriate points may be employed in drawing the baseline from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured”. This provision is consonant with the condition of Aegean Sea. This means that either Turkey or Greece will use the straight baseline method to draw the baseline beginning from their mainlands, but Greece has drawn its own straight baseline beginning from Rhodes, Karpathos, Kasos, Crete and Meis islands illegally, incompatibly with equitable principles and unilaterally. Only archipelagic states like the Bahamas, Fiji, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and the Philippines, may determine their own straight baselines beginning from islands far from mainland, but unfortunately Greece is not an archipelagic state. As a matter of fact, Greece may draw a straight baseline from the mainland of Hellenic Republic, not beyond Rhodes, Karpathos, Kasos, Crete and Meis islands. Whereas, in UNCLOS, Article 7(3) makes conditional on “straight baselines” that “the drawing of straight baselines must not depart to any appreciable extent from the general direction of the coast, and the sea areas lying within the lines must be sufficiently closely linked to the land domain to be subject to the regime of internal waters”. Meis, Rhodes, Karpathos, Kasos and Crete departs considerably from the direction of the coasts of Greece (see the image below).



Mr. Norris gave an example from Paragraph 185 of Qatar v. Bahrain ICJ Decision by referring to UNCLOS Article 121(2). It is clear that Mr. Norris read carelessly the ICJ Decision because Paragraph 168 of Qatar v. Bahrain ICJ Decision states that “under the terms of the Bahraini formula adopted in December 1990 (see paragraphs 67 and 69 above), the Parties requested the Court, ‘to draw a single maritime boundary between their respective maritime areas of seabed, subsoil and superjacent waters’”. Hawar Islands Case cannot be an example for the Eastern Mediterranean, there is no such an agreement between party states to draw the single maritime boundary as well.



The single maritime boundary just like above, means shortly that a maritime boundary establishes a single maritime line for the territorial sea, EEZ and CS between two adjacent States. It is ridiculous to accept Hawar Islands Case as a ruling case or case law. If the entitlements of islands are set out merely in Article 121 of UNCLOS, there is no meaningful explanation about the difference between archipelagic states and other states in 1982 Convention.


Secondly, in 2012 Nicaragua v. Colombia Case, Paragraph 215 and 238 expresses that in delimitating maritime jurisdictions, islands is not evaluated as equal status with mainlands. In addition, accoding to Paragraph 215 and 238, because of the dominance of land over sea, especially the islands on the opposite side of median line and far from their mainland, must have much more limited maritime entitlements in contrast with mainlands. “The ratio of Colombia’s relevant coast to that of Nicaragua is approximately 1:8.2” (see paragraphs 208-211 of 2012 Nicaragua v. Colombia Case), likewise, the ratio of total lengths of relevant faces of Meis, Rhodes, Karpathos, Kasos and Crete Islands to that of Turkey’s southmost coast is more or less 1:11. All of these Greek islands cuts Turkey off in reaching to the Eastern Mediterranean if they gain more maritime zones beyond 12 nautical miles or territorial waters. Furthermore, the paragraphes 229 and 236 of Nicaragua v. Colombia Case emphasises the principles of proportionality and the non-encroachment of the territory of another state. Briefly, Mr. Norris misread Nicaragua v. Colombia Case by all outward appearances. You may see Nicaraguan EEZ on the map below;



If the case-law of the International Court of Justice and the Arbitral Tribunals regarding the islands on the opposite side of the median line of two or more States whose coasts are opposite each other is taken into consideration, the principles of just and equitable share principles; “the principle of proportionality”, “the non-encroachment of the territory of another state” and “the dominance of the land over the sea” should be emphasized. These case law examples and principles invalidate the Greek theses in the Eastern Mediterranean. Greece’s request for maritime jurisdiction areas across 1870 kilometers of Anatolian coastline, with 167 kilometers of cumulative length of the coastlines of Rhodes, Karpathos and Crete islands facing to Eastern Mediterranean, not only brings out an illegal situation in terms of the jurisprudences of international courts, but also ignores them. Furthermore, in accordance with the principles above, Meis/Kızılhisar island as an island on the opposite side of median line in order to usurp approximately 50,000 square kilometers of maritime jurisdiction area from Turkey is an unacceptable situation and a violation of law. Hence, those principles above do not establish that Cyprus and all Greek islands are entitled to a continental shelf to the same degree as any other land territory as Mr. Norris said.


To put it another way, islands located on the opposite side of the median line between riparian states are accepted as natural prolongations of the state close to the shore. This acceptance is related to the immutability of geography. When the case law of the International Court of Justice and Permanent Courts of Arbitration is examined, it is publicly understood that in accordance with the principles of just and equitable share, “the principle of proportionality” and “the non encroachment of the territory of another state”, the maritime jurisdiction areas of the islands on the opposite side of the median line should be calculated only as much as their territorial waters (maximum 12 nautical miles). To put it briefly, “the dominance of the land over the sea”  means an international maritime law principle assuming that the mainland should be taken as a basis in the delimitation of maritime jurisdictions and islands on the opposite side of the median line should have maritime jurisdiction as much as their territorial waters. Because of these reasons, Greece is not a coastal state in the Eastern Mediterranean and not a riparian state with the Greek Cypriot Administration of Southern Cyprus.


This page was taken from the document named as “EMODnet High Resolution Seabed Mapping (HRSM)” prepared by European Marine Observation and Data Network. It shows the national coastlines and baselines of EU Countries on the map. You may see the coastlines of Greece prepared by Hellenic Navy Hydrographic Service (HNHS), but any straight baseline cannot be seen on that. There is only a note that “the baseline is defined as the coastline”. The baselines shown by Greece on the map above, is indefinite vis a vis the baselines of other countries’ maps.


Mr. Norris sets forth that “the three parties could negotiate a comprehensive “trijunction” agreement such as that between Poland, Sweden, and the USSR (1989) or between India, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives (1976)”, but he overlooks that there is no any baseline that Greece may draw an EEZ in the Eastern Mediterranean, s oto say the least, expecting a comprehensive “trijunction” agreement in this region is something like a prattle.



If it will be talked about a comprehensive “trijunction” EEZ agreement, this means that there is not a maritime boundary between Egypt and Turkey. Mr. Norris claims that the states that have the longest coastal lines in the Eastern Mediterranean, do not have a maritime boundary. The coastlines of Turkey and Egypt is shown in the map above. Greece – Egypt and the Southern Cyprus – Egypt EEZ Agreements that arranges the boundaries on both two sides, are adjusted to increase the cutoff effect between Anatolian continental margin and the northern margin of African continent. If Mr. Norris looks for “dangerous and unproductive behaviours”, he may find these sort of behaviours in the Eastern Mediterranean policies of Greece and the Southern Cyprus that have disregarded Turkey since early 2000’s.


Deniz Güler

BAU Maritime and Global Strategies Center Expert