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Standoff in the Aegean with Turkey demanding demilitarization of Greek islands

Turkey issues two navigation notices (NAVTEX) late on Tuesday demanding the demilitarization of three Greek islands. Greek and Turkish Navy forces are in standoff near the island of Kastellorizo due to the activities of Turkish seismic vessel Oruc Reis. At the same time, Ankara has leaked to the press that it will extend the operation the vessel in Greek maritime zone close South of Kastellorizo and East of Rhodes and Crete, Crete and Rhodes.

As Turkish warships are escorting the Oruc Reis, the Greek Navy has also deployed warships in the area off Kastellorizo, with the naval forces of the two countries lined up against each other.

The Turkish NAVTEX

Turkey issued the two NAVTEX reportedly as reaction of planned military exercises by the Greek Armed Forces. It demands the demilitarization of the islands of Limnos, Samothraki and Ai Stratis, claiming that Greece violates the de-militarized status of some islands contrary to the Treaty of Lausanne.

The Office Of Navigation, Hydrography and Oceanography’s Izmir station announced the Navtex on Tuesday, saying that the demilitarized status of Semothrace, Lemnos and Aya Evstratios islands have been violated by Greece.

The Turkish government disputes Greece’s claim of having exclusive rights in the waters where the Oruç Reis is working, arguing that islands should not be included in calculating sea boundaries between countries.

“Greece has armed 18 out of 23 islands in the Aegean Sea, which Turkey sees as a threat to its security. These include the islands of Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Symi, Icaria, Patmos, Leros, Kalymnos, Kos, Astypalaia, Rhodes, Kastellorizo (Megisti-Meis), Nisyros, Tilos, Halki, Karpathos and Kasos,” Turkish media reported citing the official Ankara.

The Treaties of London in 1913, of Lausanne in 1923 and of Paris in 1947 which ceded the Dodecanese islands from Italy to Greece, also confirmed the demilitarized status, the reports noted.

Reports added that “however, Greece argues that the 1936 Montreux Convention on Turkish Straits should be applied regarding the issue, while Ankara says Greece’s obligation to disarm the islands remains unchanged under the Montreux Convention as well since there is no provision that it is different from the Treaty of Lausanne on the issue.”

Greek-Turkish standoff in the Aegean

The presence of Oruc Reis in the East Mediterranean Sea have again led to a standoff of Greek and Turkish military forces. Athens has warned that it is considering all possible scenarios, including military ones, to protect its sovereign rights.

The Greek Armed Forces have been set on high alert and the General Staff published for the first time pictures of the Navy fleet monitoring the Turkish flotilla escorting the Oruc Reis.

 

At least 5 Greek warships have built a “protection wall” at the Greek “red line”, the territorial waters of 6 nautical miles off Kastellorizo.

Picture showing Oruc Reis escorted by the two support ships Ataman and Cengiz Han. Five Turkish warships also escorting the seismic vessel.

On Tuesday, the Oruc Reis came as close as 9 nautical miles off Kastellorizo.

Turkish newspaper Yeni Safak that is affiliated with the government reported that Ankara will extend also the NAVTEX for Oruc Reis that expires tomorrow. “Search operation will continue south of Kastellorizo and east of Crete and Rhodes,” the daily noted.

The presence of Oruc Reis in that area violates the Exclusive Economic Zone agreed between Greece and Egypt.

Citing government sources, Yeni Safak wrote that so far search has concluded in an area of 4,000 km and the Oruc Reis is scheduled to cover an area of 15,000 km in total.

PS Germany and France must have by now understood the “clarified Turkish position” and consider what they will do now that their “one week deadline to Ankara” has expired.

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