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07/13/2020

Is Greece’s plan to go to the Hague with Egypt over Meis Island realistic?

Is Greece’s plan to go to the Hague with Egypt over Meis Island realistic?

BY TEVFİK KADAN

Realizing that they cannot advance his military position in the Eastern Mediterranean, Athens is discussing finding a solution to the Meis problem through the International Court of Justice, by including Egypt.

Greece has been looking for alternatives other than military options to attain its claims in the Eastern Mediterranean for a while. Greek managers expressing that they suffered because of the event of any war in the region are trying to establish a front against Turkey by offering its jurisdiction to the global forces. At this point, Athens, which allocates bases to countries such as the USA, Israel, France, and distributes drilling licenses to giant energy companies like coupons, has finally given its  maritime jurisdiction away to Italy on a golden platter, despite earlier claims to their sovereignty. Even though this agreement, which is a waiver of the full impact on the islands, weakens Athens’ hand in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Islands Sea, the Greek side believes that it can reverse things at the table. [1]

Meis Island is at the center of Greece’s efforts to expand its sovereignty in the Eastern Mediterranean. Claiming that Karaada and Fener Island, which are right next to Meis Island, constituted an archipelago, Greece plans to make agreements with Cyprus and the Greek Cypriot Administration Of Southern Cyprus (GCASC) and Egypt on this line, claiming that these islands have a Exclusive Economic Zone (EZZ). But Egypt’s failure to recognize the full effect of Meis puts Greece in a difficult position. The last option spoken in Greece is to solve the Meis problem in the International Court of Justice (ICJ). However, knowing that they cannot do so because of Turkey, Athens is aiming to bring Meis to The Hague with Cairo.

THE HAGUE PLAN

Greek Prime Minister Kiryakos Micotakis had previously said in an interview with the newspaper ‘To Vima’ that Athens and Ankara should go to the International Court of Justice in The Hague if they cannot resolve the problem of jurisdiction in the Eastern Mediterranean. Realizing that this will not happen, Athens thinks that it can solve the Meis problem with Egypt. Retired Greek Vice Admiral Stelios Fenekos describes the new plan as follows: [2]:

”If Egypt has objections to Meis, let us go to The International Court of Justice in Hague with Cyprus to resolve the dispute. Therefore, perhaps, Turkey will be forced to accept responsibility in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean and request participation. Only such an institution’s decision will have a real weight in international law, and Turkey will have difficulties to doubt that we have signed an emergency agreement with Egypt.

However, the International Court of Justice may not recognize our full influence over Meis. Is it our plan to apply to The Hague? If it really is, let us stand behind it. Because this is the only way to strongly reduce the problems in the Eastern Mediterranean.

And then we can continue research and extraction of mines without the tyranny of the Turks in the maritime jurisdiction approved by the International Court of Justice.”

WHO IS THE HAGUE’S DECISION BINDING FOR?

According to Article 33 of the Charter Of the United Nations, the parties agreed that “if no result is reached from the negotiations, both parties will apply to the International Court of Justice in the Hague “. The decisions of the United Nations (UN) International Court of Justice (ICJ) are binding force for the parties and no request of appeal can be filed against them. On the other hand, Turkey and Greece are required to prepare a joint bond of arbitration that shows which disputes are agreed to by the Court of Justice for the participation of Turkey with Greece in the Hague.

This is because in order for the ICJ to exercise controversial jurisdiction over a dispute, the common consent of the states parties to the dispute is sought. [3] Therefore, knowing that it cannot go to the Court without Turkey’s consent, Athens wants Turkey to be involved in the case by inserting Egypt into the dispute. Article 62 of the ICJ Statute states that ” Should a state consider that it has an interest of a legal nature which may be affected by the decision in the case, it may submit a request to the Court to be permitted to intervene”, while article 59 shows that the decision of the Court has no binding force except between the parties and in respect of that particular case.

In other words, whatever decisions that Greece and Egypt receive from the Hague are not actually binding for Turkey.

ATHENS’S HYPOCRISY

Indeed, Greece has repeatedly not recognized the Court’s decisions in the past. Even the Greek state bureaucracy eliminated the option to go to ICJ in 2015 due to the decisions it made. [4] Having excluded some matters of dispute from the dispute resolution process within the scope of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, Athens has also stated that they will not be subject to the dispute resolution process in which the UN Security Council takes part.

While Athens excludes only “defensive military activities” from the Court’s jurisdiction within the scope of the security of the non-military status of the Eastern Aegean islands in its 1994 declaration, with its new notifications of January 2015, it expanded the ICJ’s reservations to jurisdiction to the territorial waters, airspace and sovereignty issues.

Previously not recognizing the decisions of the ICJ, Athens’ requests to go The Hague with Cairo is considered as a lever to increase international pressure on Turkey.

WHAT DECISION WILL THE HAGUE MAKE?

Even in the worst case scenario for Turkey, Meis it is not expected to gain full recognition. There have been 17 similar disputes that the International Court of Justice resulted in the decisions in favor of Turkey.[5] Stating that the continental shelf of the islands on the opposite side may only be limited to territorial water, the ICJ remained true to the UNCLOS principles [6], such as geography not being changed, equity and non-blocking.

Besides, in addition to the ICJ decision, the dispute on the status of Meise also supports Turkey’s position. In order for Meis, Karaada and Fener Island to form an archipelago, they must first be an island. It seems more realistic to say that this trio does not have its own economy, has no settled people, and has limited growth potential. Although Greece has started to place people and invest in these rocks with its resettlement policy launched in 2006, the decision in the South China Sea Arbitration Case states that the situation of the islands prior to the modernization should be taken as a basis. [7]

On the other hand, the ownership of Fener Island and Karaada is another topic of discussion. [8] The ownership of these two pieces of rock has never been attributed to Greece. Namely; together with Meis Island, 13 islands and related islets in the Menteşe Islands region were handed down to Italy by mentioning their names in the Treaty of Lausanne. Karaada and Fener Island, two other detached islands in the region were not subject to the transfer of sovereignty in Lausanne. On January 4, 1932, the sovereignty of Karaada and Fener Island was handed down to Italy in a convention between Turkey and Italy. After the Paris Peace Treaty in 1947, Italians left the island to Greece’s sovereignty that was transferred to them by Turkey in Lausanne. However, during this period, no reference was made to the convention between Turkey and Italy in 1932. So, the islands next to Meis were transferred by unlawful, and by unilaterally expanding Lausanne, without the consent of Turkey, who was not among the contracting states of the Paris Peace Treaty. Besides, the “adjacent islets” mentioned in the Paris Peace Treaty were not concretely stated in either the treaty text or the attached maps.

THE TRUTH ABOUT MEIS

Meis Island is a 9 square kilometer island located 2 kilometers from Kaş. While the population was 800 people in the 1951 census, it decreased to 222 people in the 1981 census, and increased to 490 people in the 2011 census after the settlement policy. [9] Since it has no arable land and water, it used to be called Harmansiz Ada. In terms of history, it is seen that the people here make their living with fishing, shipping and sponge craft, while the trade is made with Anatolia. Therefore, it is clear that Meis has a structure dependent on Anatolia and the environment in the context of economic life.

Meis is unlikely to survive economically alone without outsourcing, and this has its legal consequence in the context of the terms set out in Article 121/3 of the UNCLOS.

In addition, Meis is located 72 miles from Rhodes, the nearest Greek Island, and only 1 mile from the Anatolian beaches.

CONCLUSION

Greece sees that it could not achieve and wins against Turkey in Eastern Mediterranean and Aegean militarily. For this reason, Athens, which has not recognized the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice until yesterday, dreams of going to the ICJ with Egypt over the dispute and launching a diplomatic attack. Considering that the decision of the International Court of Justice could have a limited effect on Meis, Athens aims to use it to make new restrictive agreements and provide drilling licenses.

Having no problem in terms of restrictions with Turkey, Cairo could experience considerable loss of  maritime zone if it goes along with Greece’s plans. Although it retains its rights in the region in a military sense, Turkey needs to initiate the necessary diplomatic contacts with Cairo in order to prevent Egypt from making such an error .

SOURCES:

[1] https://www.militaire.gr/quot-pame-chagi-gia-kastelorizo-mazi-me-tin-aigypto-quot-i-elliniki-stratigiki-o-al-despotopoylos-analyei/

[2] https://www.aydinlik.com.tr/bir-yunan-amiral-in-hezeyanlari-210409#1

[3] http://tbbdergisi.barobirlik.org.tr/m2015-117-1470

[4] Cihat Yaycı, Doğu Akdeniz’in Paylaşım Mücadelesi ve Türkiye, Kırmızı Kedi, 2020, s.64-65-66-67

[5] https://dergipark.org.tr/tr/download/article-file/622824

[6] https://denizmevzuat.uab.gov.tr/uploads/pages/uluslararasi-sozlesmeler/denizhukuku.pdf

[7] http://static.dergipark.org.tr/article-download/bb17/cc72/db6a/5ced10b3d26f9.pdf

[8] https://www.aydinlik.com.tr/rumlarin-istekleri-hukuktan-yoksun-turkiye-mart-2018#2

[9] Sırrı Erinç/Talip Yücel, Ege Denizi: Türkiye ile Komşu Ege Adaları, Türk Kültürünü Araştırma Enstitüsü Yayınları, 2. Baskı, Ankara, 1988, s.67

 
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One response to “Is Greece’s plan to go to the Hague with Egypt over Meis Island realistic?”

  1. D. L. A. says:

    It’s very realistic. The island belongs to Greece as stated by the Paris Peace Treaties in 1947.

     

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