Relations between Greece and Turkey are once again strained in the Aegean Sea

Comfort will not last. After a brief period of rapprochement between Turkey and Greece – both members of NATO – at the start of the war in Ukraine, dialogue between the two countries returned to a standstill. In the uniform of the commander of the Turkish armed forces, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, on June 9, demanded from Greece the disarmament of some Greek islands in the Aegean Sea, calling for agreements to be made between Ankara and Athens. .

“I’m not joking […] Greece has violated the status of these islands and must disarm them. Otherwise, a debate on their sovereignty will begin, ”warned the Turkish president, who was attending a major military exercise near Izmir, in the Aegean Sea. In response to Turkey’s demands, the Greek Foreign Ministry criticized Ankara’s “revisionism” and considered Turkey’s “Blue Fatherland” doctrine a threat to peace in the region.

sea ​​boundaries

This concept of the “Blue Homeland” (“Mavi Vatan” in Turkish), which Recep Tayyip Erdoğan claimed, was developed within the Turkish Navy by nationalist admirals in the mid-2000s. Aurélien Denizeau, researcher on international relations and Turkish foreign policy specialist defines this “Blue Homeland” as “an overlapping geographical area and geopolitical doctrine.According to its theoreticians, it is a maritime sector in which Turkey must assert its rights to have a in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ). »

Ankara, unaware of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, has historically inherited a poor layout of the maritime borders of the Aegean Sea and Eastern Mediterranean. The “Blue Homeland” map designed by the Turkish admirals aims to fix it by essentially violating the EEZs claimed by the Greeks and Cypriots. “The main enemy of the proponents of this doctrine is pan-Hellenism, i.e. the fear that Greece and Cyprus are trying to combine their strategies to encircle Turkey and block its access to the Mediterranean”, explained Aurélien Denizeau.

The last peak of tension occurred in the summer of 2020, around the small Greek island of Kastellórizo, isolated more than 100 km east of Rhodes, and just a few kilometers off the coast of Turkey. A strategic location on the borders of the Aegean Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean, where Athens and Ankara compete for maritime sovereignty. After a development that raised fears of a military incident around the small island, Turkish and Greek diplomats sat at the negotiating table to discuss a framework for resolving their ancient issues. difference. But on May 23, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced that he had cut off bilateral meetings in Greece.

Desired gas resources

A week later, the 4e The ship of the Turkish drilling fleet is named in honor of Sultan Abdülhamid, a historical and political reference to President Erdoğan. A new step in Turkey’s rise in exploration capabilities for underwater resources. “In the Black Sea, Turkey is already beginning to exploit a deposit, but above all the potential of the eastern Mediterranean is of interest to it”, says researcher Aurélien Denizeau.

The ambitions criticized by opposition deputy Hisyar Özsoy, spokesman for the Peoples ’Democratic Party (HDP-pro-Kurdish left):“ In fact, no one knows if it is possible to get any economic return from it. .The only opposition party that has openly attacked the concept of the “Blue Fatherland”, the HDP considers it “total nonsense”, Hisyar Özsoy insisted. “This doctrine is likely to have militarized the Eastern Mediterranean, it is based on nationalism, populism “, the representative criticized.” President Erdoğan is now using it to polarize Turkish society for internal political purposes. If you like my opinion, these seas belong first to the fish and octopuses that live there. »

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