What does the Greek government have in store for Kastellorizo in SE Mediterranean and is not telling?

It all started when former Greek FM Kotzias referred to Greeks as “monahofagades” meaning people who want everything for themselves, concerning rights in the eastern Mediterranean, which could imply backtracking on the EEZ rights afforded by UNCLOS to the remote SE Med Greek island chain of Kastellorizo.

If there was nothing further, one could argue that it was just the personal opinion of a disgruntled politician sowing discord among his erstwhile colleagues, despite his deprecating comments against his own countrymen (although he himself claims to be a Marxist and an internationalist)

However, because Kotzias is thought, by some, to be intelligent and experienced in foreign policy matters, some saw that his statement at the Delphi Forum was a sort of pre-announcement of a gesture.

It did not take long for this to be confirmed. It became obvious from the visit of current FM Katrougalos to Yurkey to confirm the idea that Kotzias was actually a “teaser” as admen call it.

This obviously can not be a coincidence. All the more so when the recent at the Tsipra-Erdogan meeting the two men talked about cooperation between the two countries on energy, without specifying in which energy field the cooperation is being discussed.

The fact, however, that Katrougalos’ statements during his meeting with Turkish FM Cavussoglu, came on top of the generalized statement by Tsipras and the odd statement by Kotzias signals that there is more than smoke as concerns in the exploitation of energy resources on the Greek continental shelf.

According to information, Kotzias made the relevant statement because he knew what had been discussed between the Greek Prime Minister and the Turkish President. Moreover, there are enough cadres in SYRIZA who are seeking a Greek-Turkish agreement on the model of the Prespa Agreement. There are also public statements by SYRIZA deputies that the model of the Prespa Agreement should be applied to Greek-Turkish relations!

Katrougalos had said: “How can one exclude Turkey from this region, which has so many miles of coastline on the Mediterranean?” The question is what does this imply, by emphasizing something never challenged by Greece. On the contrary, it is Ankara that claims that all islands, small or large, do not have a continental shelf, nor an EEZ. Thus the Turkish continental shelf (according to the maps shown by Turley’s Defence Minister Akar) reaches the south of Crete!

Katrougalos claimed the obvious, adding that the Greek islands have an EEZ continental shelf and that Athens’ position is that the EEZ continental shelf should be delineated on the basis of the principle of the middle line. And because Turkey has a different position, it should resume the proposal to refer the dispute to the International Court of Justice in The Hague to resolve it on the basis of International Law.

This explicitly stipulates that even the smallest islet, if it hosts even elementary economic activity (eg reared goats), is entitled to an EEZ continental shelf. The Convention on the Law of the Sea, however, has become a conventional law and therefore also binds Turkey. However, Ankara insists on its allegation, citing specific circumstances, and has not recognized the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice.

So what are Tsipras, Kotzias, and Katrougalos trying to tell us? As they can’t be referring to the Cyprus EEZ, all of these statements must refer to the Kastelorizo island chain.

According to diplomatic sources, Athens has expressed in Ankara its readiness to negotiate less of Kastelorizo’s influence on sea areas. The Turkish side, of course, noted the Greek retreat but did not commit itself, insisting that the islands lack an EEZ and a continental shelf.

What Kotzias had implied was that Greece must accept that the Kastelorizo complex will not have full effect on an EEZ/continental shelf. In other words, the principle of the middle line should not be applied to the delimitation. This position, however, is equivalent to ceding national rights.

If recourse to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, was sought this may not have given the small Greek island complex full rights due to Turkey’s large land area. It might have delimited the EEZ, combining the principle of the middle line with the principle of proportionality. Obviously, Greece would have accepted the decision, since it has recognized the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice. But this is another way of saying in advance that Athens is ready to accept a reduced influence, undermining the negotiating and legal position of the country.

Forms of co-management and co-operation
According to the same diplomatic sources, the Greek government has appeared willing to discuss forms of co-management at least in the marine area of Kastelorizo. This point was made through Kotzia’s statement “to give Turkey a perspective to participate in economic development (from the exploitation of energy deposits)”. And to leave no doubt about what he meant, he added: “Put it on the table for discussion” with Ankara.

But Kotzias, was not alone. In an interview with the Anodolu agency, Katrougalos moved along the same wavelength, stating that “we certainly see Turkey’s participation positively” in the energy equation of the Eastern Mediterranean. He also asked for Turkey’s participation in the trilateral cooperation of Greece-Cyprus-Israel! This without even considering the other two partners. Suffice it to say that 40% of Cyprus is under Turkish occupation.

In addition, Israel has an open front with Erdogan and would not even be discussing such a possibility. The geopolitical triangles of Greece-Cyprus-Israel (in the Jerusalem session US secretary of State Mike Pompeo also participated) and Greece-Cyprus-Egypt (France will also participate in the next session), constitute an informal geostrategic grid with the blessings of the West. This grid leaves Turkey outside from developments in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Ridicule and appeasement
Katrougalos may want to caress the ears of the Turks to appease them, but with his sad, soothing diplomacy, he belittles Greece to its allies. His statement, alone, that his purpose is for Cavusoglu to call him “cardass” (brother) and not “giaour” (heathen) is the epitome of self- degradation. As if after being called a “slut” by someone, one wans rather to be called “honey”.

The mission of the Greek Foreign Minister is to uphold national interests in terms of international law and national dignity, talking to his Turkish counterpart in terms of parity, rather than begging for non-confrontational behavior in Greek-Turkish relations. It is not, of course, accidental that Cavusoglu came to the meeting at Antalya with a tough agenda. At the same time, Erdogan misses no opportunity to use aggressive and offensive rhetoric against Greece.

In any case, however, the Tsipras Government has to put aside the blurred statements and clarify its position on the issues it has opened. It should tell the opposition parties and the citizens exactly what they are seeking. If it proposes specifically for the Maritime Area of Kastelorizo a co-exploitation of possible hydrocarbon deposits, in order to remove the deadlock that exists today, let SYRIZA say it clearly.

adapted from an article by Stavros Lygeros in SLpress.gr