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Turkish claims regarding the demilitarization of islands in the Aegean Sea

The Status of the Islands of the South-Eastern Aegean (the Dodecanese)

The Dodecanese islands were ceded to Greece in full sovereignty by the Paris Peace Treaty between Italy and the Allies in April 1947. The provisions of this Treaty provided for the demilitarization of these islands: “The above islands shall be demilitarized and shall remain so”. There is a National Guard presence on the Dodecanese islands, which has been declared in accordance with CFE provisions.

With regard to Turkish claims on the demilitarization of the Dodecanese islands, it should be noted that:

  • Turkey is not a signatory state to this Treaty, which therefore constitutes a "res inter alios acta" for Turkey; i.e., an issue pertaining to others. According to Article 34 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, a treaty does not create obligations or rights for third countries.
  • The demilitarized status of the Dodecanese islands was imposed after the decisive intervention of the Soviet Union and echoes Moscow’s political intentions at that point in time. It should, however, be noted that demilitarized status lost its raison d’être with the creation of NATO and the Warsaw Pact, as incompatible with countries’ participation in military alliances. Against this backdrop, demilitarized status ceased to apply to the Italian islands of Pantelaria, Lampedusa, Lampione and Linosa, as well as to West Germany on the one hand and Bulgaria, Romania, East Germany, Hungary and Finland on the other.

It should be stressed that Greece, just like any other country in the world, has never ceded its natural right of defense in the event of a threat to its islands or any other part of its territory, especially since there has been sufficient proof over the past decades that Turkey is acting in an inconsistent manner and in violation of the United Nations Charter. 

Apart from the threat of war, Turkey:

  • invaded Cyprus in 1974, in violation of the Cyprus Treaty of Guarantee, to which Greece is a signatory state, and despite the numerous United Nations Security Council and General Assembly Resolutions to the contrary, still continues to maintain substantial military forces in the occupied territories.
  • systematically violates Greek Air Space, and its military aircraft, often armed, fly over inhabited Greek islands in the Aegean Sea, which raises serious security concerns.
  • over the past three decades, has maintained a significant number of military units, aircraft and landing craft at points on the coast of Asia Minor just across from the Greek islands, which is a serious threat against Greece.

This state of affairs, in conjunction with the threat of a casus belli should Greece extend its territorial waters to 12 nautical miles as is its legal entitlement, coupled with a more general revisionist tendency in Turkey concerning International Treaties determining the status of the Aegean, oblige Greece to be in a state of preparedness such as will allow it, if need be, to exercise its right to legitimate defense, as provided for in Article 15 of the United Nations Charter and to protect the Greek islands of the Aegean.

Last Updated Monday, 12 December 2016