Unstoppable Turkey Claims Greek Waters off Rhodes

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (Presidential Press Service via AP, Pool)

RHODES – Already drilling for oil and gas off Cyprus’ coast with no one able to stop it, Turkey now has set its sights on Greece’s sovereign waters off the west coast of the major island of Rhodes, sending a letter to the United Nations claiming part of the Aegean sea there.

Turkey’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Feridun Sinirlioglu, in the communication presented his country’s idea of a Blue Homeland that goes halfway across the East Mediterreanean to stake what it said are its rights there.

Greece’s Foreign Ministry immediately fired back and said the Turkish claim was unlawful but the new New Democracy government – which supports Turkey’s hopes of getting into the European Union – didn’t go beyond that.

The letter stresses Ankara’s right to have maritime zones and a continental shelf west of the 28th meridian (located south of Rhodes,) ignoring the Dodecanese island chain in the southeast Aegean and Crete, said Kathimerini in a report.

That essentially means that Turkey wants to delimit its maritime zones with Libya with the paper saying Turkey sees the area stretching from the 28th to the 32nd meridian to be part of the Turkish continental shelf – including half of Rhodes, Kastellorizo and the island complex of Ro and Strongili.

It also calls on Greece, as well as Libya and Egypt, to discuss how to demarcate the area west of Rhodes, with Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan getting bolder after the European Union issued only soft sanctions against the Cypriot drilling.

Turkey wants to discuss the status of the continental shelf stretching west of Rhodes to Crete while the Greek Foreign Ministry said that this suggests interference in Greece’s right to conclude demarcation agreements with third countries.

Essentially, the letter disputes the influence of the Greek islands on the one hand, while on the other ignoring the rights of Cyprus, which it does not recognize with Turkey – which won’t recognize Cyprus, a member of the EU – also has disputed that island’s right to set an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and license foreign companies to hunt there for oil and gas.

“The Turkish claims and reference to specific coordinates are legally unfounded, incorrect and arbitrary, in so far as they violate Greece’s sovereign rights in the region,” the Greek Foreign Ministry said.

Greece also said that the Turkish claims west of the 32nd meridian “constitute an open interference with the Greece’s right to conclude demarcation agreements with third countries, rejecting  “illegal Turkish claims and reserves the right to respond appropriately.”