Greece, Turkey Sparred Behind Scenes at NATO Meeting

FILE - Souda Bay, Greece (Sept. 13, 2010) The Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) and embarked 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (26th MEU) arrive in Souda Bay, Greece for a brief port visit. (U.S. Navy photo by Paul Farley/Released)

ATHENS – While Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan talked on the sidelines of the NATO meeting in London, their delegations battled  over the seas between them and other issues.

Confidential Turkish military documents obtained by Nordic Monitor revealed the behind-the-scenes standoffs included the status of islands in the Aegean Sea, Cyprus, military forces and equipment deployed in the region, the name of the Turkish straits and national airspace and territorial waters in the Aegean.

The site is operated by a non-profit organization tracking extremism, led by Turkish journalists and former reporters in exile and security specialists and based in Stockholm.

The report said Turkish officials opposed NATO documents concerning Greek garrisons on the island of Lemnos and vetoed a NATO chart revealing a Greek military presence on the “demilitarized” eastern Aegean islands.

In response, the Greek delegation vetoed a Turkish military forces chart that was submitted during the NATO Defence Planning Process (NDPP), the document said, with Turkey arguing that the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan won’t recognize said Lemnos and other Greek islands must be demilitarized because of their importance to the Turkish straits.

Greek officials rejected that argument and said that the l936 Montreux Convention Regarding the Regime of the Straits had changed the status of the islands and used military memos to argue that the submarine danger area for Rhodes Island should be excluded.

According to the document Turkey objected to the visits of military vessels operating in the Aegean Sea during NATO activities to the “demilitarized Aegean islands” and prevented the port visit of a vessel from the NATO Standing Maritime Group 2 in 2014. 

Turkey accused Greece of attempting to add information on garrisons, military aircraft and radar located on Lemnos to the AIRCOM Support Plan and the standard operating procedure of the NATO Combined Air Operations Center.

The report said Turkey monitored arms, military equipment and vehicles deploye by other NATO members in the eastern Aegean islands and that the Turkish General Staff asked the foreign ministry to “deliver diplomatic demarches in order to persuade the United States, Germany, France, Belgium, Czech Republic [Czechia] and Slovakia about Greek military activities in eastern Aegean islands which violate international law and treaties.”

According to the military documents, Turkish officials insisted on using the term “Cyprus island” in the NATO documents, messages and briefings instead of just Cyprus, which Turkey doesn’t recognize and as it still occupies the northern third seized in an unlawful 1974 invasion.

Turkey requested that the two Turkish straits be named the Istanbul Strait and the Çanakkale Strait, which Greece calls as the Bosphorus and Dardanelles in accordance with the Montreux Convention.

There were disputes about air space as Turkey has repeatedly sent fighter jets into Greek areas, which has led to mock dogfights with Greek pilots, adding to the tension building after Turkey and Libya signed an agreement carving up much of the Aegean and East Mediterranean between them.