- Oi Ellinotourkikes Sheseis ke to Aigaio: 1973 – 1976 (Greek-Turkish Relations and the Aegean: 1973–1976)
Sotiris Rizas’s book, Greek-Turkish Relations and the Aegean: 1973 – 1976, published in Greek, is an analysis of the Greek-Turkish dispute over the exploration and exploitation rights in the Aegean Sea and consequently over the delimitation of the Aegean continental shelf.
The period between November 1973 and November 1976 began with the emergence of the delimitation of the Greek continental shelf as an issue when the Turkish government suggested revisions to the existing conditions. It ended with the Greek-Turkish crisis of 1976 and the signing of the Bern Agreement in November of the same year. The disagreements about the sovereign rights of Greece and Turkey in the Aegean cover a number of issues of major importance that continue to affect relations between the two states. Among the issues are the extent of the Greek territorial sea and national airspace, including the difference between the Greek territorial sea limit of six nautical miles and the Greek national airspace limit of ten miles; the continental shelf delimitation; and the militarization by the Greek government of the eastern Aegean islands. However, the major point of contention in the dispute is the determination of the corresponding continental shelf for Greece and Turkey.
The incident that started the Greek-Turkish dispute was the publication in the official Turkish gazette in November 1967 of exploration concessions by the Turkish Petroleum Company, which granted twenty-seven exploration permits for areas of the Aegean Sea lying off the territorial waters of the Greek islands of Samothrace, Chios, Lemnos, Lesbos, Aghios Efstratios, Psara, and Antipsara.1 Three months later, the Greek junta protested to the Turkish government against the granting of these concessions and declared that the seabed of the areas depicted in the map published in the gazette belonged, to a large extent, to the Greek islands in the eastern Aegean.2
The author explains that the issue was not about any alteration of territory, which was well established by the provisions of both the Lausanne (1923) and Paris (1947) treaties, although the Turkish government’s concessions did have territorial implications. The author notes that the 1973 oil crisis was the catalyst in the Greek-Turkish [End Page 126] dispute. Greece had already undertaken an effort to discover new oil sources as a result of the 1973 world oil crisis, but the Greek authorities considered that the only issue in dispute was the delimitation of the continental shelf, which could be resolved only by referral to the International Court of Justice, as Prime Minister Konstantinos Karamanlis suggested in January 1975.3
Rizas affirms in his study that the core of the problem lay in control of the Aegean Sea, but perhaps it would be clearer to state that the issue of control was over the sources of oil in the Aegean, with implications for control over the Aegean Sea. The author is correct about the main problem of the Greek-Turkish dispute — that the major issue in the dispute is Greece’s territorial sea limit, because such is always taken into account when delimiting the continental shelf between two coastal states. Article 76 of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea provides that “the continental shelf of a coastal State comprises the seabed and subsoil of the submarine areas that extend beyond its territorial sea.”4
The Turkish government did not ask for revision of the treaties of Lausanne or Paris but did propose the denial of the right of the Greek islands in the eastern Aegean to have their own continental shelf, as provided by the Geneva Convention (1958) and, later, by the Convention on the Law of the Sea. This would have changed the status-quo in the Aegean and isolated the Greek islands from continental Greece, leaving them in an area of Turkish jurisdiction over the sea. The author also stresses the role played by the...