Claymont, Delaware 19703
March 14, 2018
Donald J. Trump, President of the United States of America,
Mike Pompeo, US Secretary of State
Matthew Nimetz, UN Special Mediator between Athens and Skopje
António Guterres, Secretary General of UN
Member States of the United Nations
Member States of the EU
Antonio Tajani, President of the European Parliament
Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary General of NATO
Members of the European Parliament
Prokopios Pavlopoulos, President of the Hellenic Republic
Alexis Tsipras, Prime Minister of Greece
Nikos Kotzias, Foreign Minister of Greece
Panos Kammenos, Minister of Defense of Greece
Admiral Evangelos Apostolakis, Chief of the Hellenic National Defense General Staff
Nicos Anastasiadis, President of Cyprus
Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Leader of the major opposition party
Leaders of all political parties in Greece
Members of the Greek Parliament
The world is stunned, not so much by Turkey’s actions—which are nothing new and unexpected—, but by the reaction (or the lack of) to Turkey’s provocations on the part of governments of nation states as well as international organizations aiming to keep world peace.
The Turkish military has been invading the Greek waters and airspace on an almost daily basis, a state of affairs reoccurring for many years. These provocations are rarely reported by the world news media, yet they have led international (non-Greek) journalists to often refer to certain Greek Aegean islands as “disputed— between Greece and Turkey—islands”. The borders between Greece and Turkey were defined by the international Treaty of Lausanne (24 July 1923), which has been signed also by Turkey (https://wwi.lib.byu.edu/index.php/Treaty_of_Lausanne), the 1932 Turkish-Italian Agreements, and the 1947 Paris Treaty, which recognized the islands of the Aegean as Greek territory. Therefore, there are no “disputed islands”; the Greek islands are disputable only in the eyes of the Turkish government. Time and again, Greece has responded to Turkey’s provocations by trying to de-escalate the tensions.
Recently, the Turkish threats against Greece have reached a very dangerous level. President Erdoğan declares that Turkey “gave away” the islands that “used to be ours” and are “within shouting distance” (https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/11954/turkey-threats-greek-islands). Hope for a democratic change in Turkish government and decreased aggression is non-existent, as the main opposition party (the Republican People’s Party) promises to the Turks more aggression against Greece and quick expansion of the Turkish borders.
On February 12, 2018, within Greek territorial waters, east of the Greek island of Imia, a corvette of the Turkish Coast Guard moved fast against the side of an anchored Greek Coast Guard ship which was on patrol in the area, apparently with the intent to break it in the middle, in contravention of the International Conflict Avoidance Rules. The Greek Coast Guard vessel, after a proper maneuver, avoided complete destruction but was hit at the stern and suffered extensive damage. This was clearly a deliberately provocative action. Certainly the Turkish captain did not act on his own, but rather was following orders. Response from organizations representing the international community was what it has always been: “the two sides must de-escalate the tensions”. Is this an appropriate response when tensions are initiated by only one side? Can conformity with international law be expected on the part of Turkey, when organizations defending world peace do not dare to say “you have to stop, or else”? It is also ironic that both Greece and Turkey are members of NATO, an alliance aiming at defending the territorial integrity of its members.
Even more incendiary are the events transpiring in Cyprus. On the 9th of February, 2018, Turkish military naval vessels invaded the Republic of Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and blockaded the Italian drill vessel Saipem 12000 of Italian Energy Company ENI (Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi), on its way to a drilling operation within Block 3 of Cyprus’ EEZ. As a result, Saipem 12000, left the sovereign waters of the Republic of Cyprus and moved to another location in Moroccan waters. The United Nations and its Security Council failed to condemn this latest invasion of Cyprus by Turkey, as it should have done since it is the bastion of safeguarding the sovereignty of its member states. Turkey’s actions were condemned by the Italian Government, the European Commission (albeit lukewarmly calling on Turkey to refrain from threats), and of course by the Cyprus Government. The weak response of the International Community seemed to follow the example of the United Kingdom, one of the so called Guarantor Powers of the Republic of Cyprus, which should have condemned Turkey in the strongest terms. The Greek community in the UK is carrying out an electronic campaign calling on the British Government to do that, with over 3,000 emails to have reached the British Foreign Office since the 23rd of February. Due to the failure of the International Community to act decisively, Turkey was successful in blocking the oil and gas explorations. New explorations are now due within the next few days by American ExxonMobil on Block 10 of Cyprus’s EEZ.
It is important to note that Turkey is the only member state of the United Nations that does not recognize Cyprus as an independent country and a member of the European Union, and is not a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which Cyprus has signed and ratified. Part of Turkey’s bullying in Cyprus’ EEZ has to do with the fact that the Turkish military occupies the northern section of the island since its two illegal invasions on 20th of July and 14th of August, 1974, an occupation seemingly provoked by the Greek dictatorship at that time, under very peculiar circumstances that some like to simplify with the phrase “Greek nationalists staged a coup, intending to annex Cyprus to Greece”. The historical truth, however, has been released by the British National Archives, confirming the collusion between Turkey and the United Kingdom in allowing Turkey to invade in order to re-constitute the Republic of Cyprus into “two constituent states”, a partitionist plan devised by the British in 1956/57, re-planned as from the 3rd January 1964 between the British and the Turks, and executed in 1974.
In recent negotiations (June, 2017) for reunification of the island of Cyprus with its northern occupied section, Mr. Anastasiadis, the president of Cyprus, made great concessions for power sharing between Turkish and Greek Cypriots (in the form of ‘two constituent states’). Even so, Turkey’s government rejected them as it insists on maintaining Turkish troops in the ‘Turkish Constituent State’ following the ‘solution’, and also continue as a guarantor power as per the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee, which the Government of Cyprus and Government of Greece want abandoned (the three Guarantor Powers as per the ToG of 1960 were the United Kingdom, Greece and Turkey). Who, in his right mind, knowing Turkey’s pattern of aggression at many fronts, would give Turkey the right to lawfully intervene militarily in Cyprus any time it considers it necessary? Signing such an agreement is similar to signing the end of Cyprus’ independence.
In this climate of bullying and aggression, on March 1st, 2018, two Greek military officers (a sergeant and a second lieutenant) were captured by Turkish officials while patrolling in Kastanies, Evros, northern Greece, and are now being held in Adrianople (Edirne), in high security prisons. According to information available, the patrol lost its orientation due to adverse weather conditions (snow) and, allegedly, stepped across the border into Turkey; it is still unclear whether the officers fell into a pre-planned ambush. Even if indeed the two officers had crossed the border, accidental crossings of the borders have happened a number of times in the past, from both sides, and the problem was resolved peacefully. What is different now? Have the Turkish soldiers been ordered to capture and arrest Greek soldiers when the opportunity arises? For what purpose? According to the press, the Turkish public is satisfied with the capture and imprisonment of the Greek military officers because Greece has not extradited to Turkey eight Turkish soldiers who sought asylum in Greece after the coup aimed at overthrowing the present government of Turkey. We would hope that the Turkish public keeps this in mind: Greece has nothing to gain by not extraditing the Turkish soldiers to Turkey. Yet, Greek authorities keep them in Greece, following procedures according to international law. But many Greeks also prefer the Turkish officers not be turned over to Turkish authorities out of a sense of compassion, as a return to Turkey would mean execution or a life sentence. On the other hand, when Turkish authorities allow the Greek officers to return to Greece, the officers will not be thrown in jail but into the arms of their families. Does this contrast mean anything to the Turkish public?
Greece faces an additional very serious problem at this time, and that is the issue of the unresolved naming of the southern part of former Yugoslavia that broke away when the country fractured into several smaller states in 1990. Anyone who is familiar with the history of the “Macedonian issue” understands Greece’s concern that naming FYROM (a temporary name under the auspices of UN until a permanent name is agreed between Athens and Skopje) “Macedonia” or any name that includes “Macedonia” in it—such as North or New Macedonia, which we all know will be reduced to simply “Macedonia”—threatens the territorial integrity of Greece and creates confusion regarding the history of ancient Macedonia. The Turkish government has been involved in this issue as well, with President Erdoğan declaring that he will not agree to accept FYROM into NATO with any name other than Macedonia. Doesn’t this interference raise one more red flag for those involved in the name negotiations, who are pressing Greece to agree to accept the name Macedonia for FYROM? The present close and friendly relationship between Turkey and FYROM is a blatant reality, as the population of FYROM includes about 4% Turks in addition to a significant percentage of other Muslims within the 35% of the Albanian population (see “Erdoğan’s brothers”: http://greece.greekreporter.com/2016/11/10/turkish-president-defines-turkeys-borders-of-the-heart-as-larger-than-actual-borders/). The Turks of FYROM, along with the Slavs who are the majority of the country’s population, and together with Turks in Turkey who create associations to support FYROM’s interests, identify themselves as “Macedons” who supposedly speak the “Macedonian language”. The representatives of the international community ought to recognize the fiasco, and support Greece in its struggle to protect its land and history.
There is a long history in the relations between Turkey and Greece, starting from the defeat of the “Byzantine” army in Manzikert by the Seljuk Turks (1071), which, in combination with the internal political paralysis which followed in Constantinople, permitted the permanent establishment of Seljuks in Asia Minor, and resulted in the subjugation of the Eastern Roman Empire (“Byzantine empire”) to the Turks and the creation of the Ottoman Empire. But “rough history” exists between many nations, and yet they have found ways to overcome the past and prosper in a new direction. Furthermore, commonalities in history create not only friction but also bonds. This is reflected in the very friendly exchanges between Greek tourists visiting Turkey and Turkish tourists visiting Greece, as well as in individual friendships between Greeks and Turks, both in Greece and abroad. In addition, many Turks are buying property in Greece to have it available not only for vacations, but also to find refuge in the event something goes very wrong in Turkey. In addition, Turkish businessmen have made substantial investments in Greece, in recent years. The Turkish government must capitalize on these friendly attitudes, for the good of both countries, rather than cultivate animosity and hate. However, until this happens, the organizations that represent democratic nations striving for peace and prosperity (EU, UN, NATO) ought to deal with the aggressive behavior of the Turkish government in an an effective manner, rather than leave Greece to handle on her own a country that is armed to its teeth. What is the purpose of Greece’s—or any country’s—alliance with these organizations, if support is not provided when needed? What is the reason for the existence of these organizations if they do not meet the goals they have set?
We call on the international community to support Greece in its efforts to free the two Greek military officers unfairly imprisoned in the highest security prisons of Edirne. We also call on the international community to stop Turkey from violating international treaties and laws.
We call on the Greek government and the Greek military leaders to take all necessary steps in order to secure the safe and quick release of the two imprisoned officers.
This Open Letter – Call to the International Community was prepared and distributed by the International Hellenic Association (USA), which is a non-profit, non-partisan organization with a membership of more than 3000 Greek and Philhellene academics worldwide.
International Hellenic Association-IHA (USA)