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27 May, 2024
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Turkish defense leaks signal Aegean park conflict

Ankara's 'gray zone' theory reignites Aegean disputes

Kathimerini Greece Newsroom

Tensions with Ankara have resurfaced again after Ankara’s objections to Greece’s announcement to designate marine parks, including one in the Aegean Sea.

Ankara’s intransigent stance on issues related to the Aegean, as expressed by its ministries of foreign affairs and defense and the ruling AKP party, stem from its long-held theory of “gray zones” in the region.

What’s more, leaks from the Turkish Defense Ministry suggested a reaction in the field in case Greece proceeds with the delimitation of the marine park.

This is the first time since February 2023 that Ankara has returned to implicit but clear threats of using military force to prevent Athens from exercising a right.

Greece, as Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis noted from Brussels on Thursday, exercises its sovereignty in the Aegean based on international law, while noting at the same time that there is no question of changing the scheduled meeting in Ankara with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, set for May 13.

“Greece exercises its sovereignty and sovereign rights in the Aegean Sea on the basis of International Law and the Law of the Sea. Beyond that, I am also surprised by this totally unjustified reaction of Turkey to an initiative which, after all, is of an environmental nature,” he said.

Mitsotakis also declared that “Greece will proceed with the creation of these marine parks.”

He also noted that, in his view, “the improvement in Greek-Turkish relations, which is undeniable and measurable,” does not automatically lead to the working assumption that “Turkey’s basic positions on the crucial issue of the delimitation of maritime zones in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean have changed.”

“These positions are deeply problematic for our country,” he stressed, while adding that “this does not prohibit us from being able to discuss, to create a generally good climate, and to invest more in the positive agenda and less in the issues that divide us and on which we clearly disagree.”

Turkey’s overreaction highlights, if anything, Ankara’s absolute commitment to the “gray zone” agenda, an entrenched state suspicion of Greece and the West in general, as the declaration of marine parks is being done in the context of possibilities provided by the EU (including funding).

It is also becoming clear that the Athens-Ankara communication channels are not as effective as is occasionally proclaimed

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