WASHINGTON, DC – The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) on February 16 welcomed a series of statements made by U.S. State Department officials that address Turkey’s recent challenges to the sovereignty of Greece’s islands.
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu recently issued remarks claiming the sovereignty of Greece’s islands is “debatable” unless Greece “demilitarizes” them.
The State Department, responding to Foreign Minister Cavusoglu’s claims, stated: “The sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries must be respected and protected. The sovereignty of Greece over these islands is not in question.”
U.S. Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt added, “I affirmed what Washington has made clear: The sovereignty of Greece over its islands is not in question.”
“AHI welcomes the State Department’s unequivocal affirmation of Greece’s sovereignty and pushback against Turkey’s claims,” President Nick Larigakis said. “It is Turkey, not Greece, that is in constant violation of U.S. and international law. Turkey’s legal arguments challenging Greece’s sovereignty over its islands are absurd and baseless. The international community and the U.S. government must continue to call out Turkey for its increasingly outlandish claims.”
Minister Cavusoglu’s overreaching demand is based on Turkey’s faulty argument that the islands given to Greece by the Treaties of Lausanne of 1923 and Paris Peace Treaties of 1947 were done so on the condition of their demilitarization, and thus the sovereignty of Greece’s islands are now in question due to Greek military presence. These are fallacious arguments.
As it pertains to the Treaty of Lausanne, the original provisions demilitarizing the Greek islands of Limnos and Samothrace were repealed by 1936 Montreux Treaty. The Turkish government at the time, including Turkey’s then Ambassador to Athens Roussen Esref and Foreign Minister Rustu Aras, reiterated Greece’s right to militarize Limnos and Samothrace in 1936. To that effect, Minister Cavusoglu’s attempt to use the Treaty of Lausanne to challenge Greece’s ability to militarize its islands is completely void and ahistorical.
Under the Treaty of Peace with Italy of 1947, to which the United States is a signatory, the Dodecanese Islands and adjacent islets were ceded by Italy to Greece. As a result, the Treaty of Peace with Italy is U.S. federal law and binding on the U.S. government. To that effect, Greece’s “full sovereignty” over the Dodecanese Islands and adjacent islets is a matter of U.S. and international law. In addition, under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, Greece has the right of defense.
Turkey, however, is not a signatory to the Paris Peace Treaties. Article 34 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties clearly states that treaties do not give rights to third countries. Turkey has no rights to the Paris Peace Treaties and cannot employ the Treaty. As such, Turkey is completely out of bounds in trying to use its gross misinterpretation of the Paris Peace Treaties to challenge Greece’s sovereignty and control over its islands.