What would the east Mediterranean’s ‘borders’ look like from the perspective of both countries?

As Turkey and Greece are at loggerheads in the eastern Mediterranean, maps staking out the claims of both nations have become widely available.

Turkey, for its part, has sought to point out that Greek claims in the region would be tantamount to hemming in the country by giving disproportionate territory to Greece.

As a peninsula state, Turkey has more than 8,333 kilometres of coastline and the country has more than 462,000 square kilometres of potential maritime jurisdictional area.

If Turkey did not assert its claim in the eastern Med, this is what Greeces EEZ would look like. Turkey has described this as illegitimate.
If Turkey did not assert its claim in the eastern Med, this is what Greeces EEZ would look like. Turkey has described this as illegitimate. (TRTWorld)

Greece argues that its islands in the Aegean sea can generate their own Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) which would allow Greece to explore 200 nautical miles of sea water.

Turkey has argued that islands can not generate their own EEZs and that Greece’s EEZ should start from the mainland, rather than from the sprawl of hundreds of islands.

As the map above shows, Turkey - which has a significant coastline - would be denied any rights to waters just mere kilometres away from the mainland.

Turkey (grey) in an agreement with Libya (green) in 2019 agreed on a maritime border which Ankara argued was a fair and equitable.
Turkey (grey) in an agreement with Libya (green) in 2019 agreed on a maritime border which Ankara argued was a fair and equitable. (TRTWorld)

The Exclusive Economic Zones are governed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) which was signed in 1982. Turkey has never signed the Treaty, although it has used certain principles from it to settle all maritime claims with the Black Sea states.

The US, Peru and Columbia are a handful of countries that have also not ratified UNCLOS agreement.

Last year, on November 27, when Turkey and Libya signed a maritime agreement which established the EEZ of both countries, principles from UNCLOS were used. 

The above map is Turkey’s EEZ. The country says it fairly reflects its geographic position and legal maritime claims.

Turkey has urged Greece to resolve the issue bilaterally considering the proximity of each other's borders and that both countries are NATO allies.

Just when it seemed Germany had brought both sides together earlier this month, Greece and Egypt signed an overlapping maritime agreement on the eve of talks with Turkey.

Turkey's EEZ (blue) and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus EEZ (yellow).
Turkey's EEZ (blue) and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus EEZ (yellow). (TRTWorld)

Turkey called off bilateral talks, citing a lack of commitment from the Greeks to engage in negotiations without preconditions.

In an interview, Cem Gurdeniz, a retired Turkish admiral said: “Greece and the Greek Cypriot Administration thought it could carve out 150,000 square kilometres of the sea from Turkey. They thought that the Turks are land people not sea faring people and that the EU and the US would force Turkey to accept it. No, we will not permit such a thing.”

Many observers have suggested that competition for resources has been the main driving force in the eastern Mediterranean.

Turkey's Blue Homeland strategy as conceptualised by Cem Gurdeniz.
Turkey's Blue Homeland strategy as conceptualised by Cem Gurdeniz. (TRTWorld)

Turkey, however, has adopted a defensive naval doctrine called the ‘Blue Homeland’. It effectively secures its main and only outlet to the sea freely, which is why the eastern Mediterranean is so important for Turkey’s political and military establishment. 

The Blue Homeland doctrine was initially proposed in 2006, it was adopted as official policy in 2013 by the Turkish government.

While the EEZ is governed by the UNCLOS, and therefore allows trading ships to pass freely, the passage of military naval ships is highly contested and Turkey does not feel strategically comfortable or willing to outsource permission to what it sees as the whims of the Greek state who it would have to seek permission from.

The Blue Homeland doctrine, therefore, aims to ensure that Turkey can defend its own borders without relying on other states.

Source: TRT World