Greece has always endavoured to bring her bilateral issues with Turkey to the agenda of EU from the very beginning. The fact that to a large extent she has been succesfull in her efforts, especially during the last period should come as no surprise. In any international organization, if one of its members insists on drafting suggestions on the grounds of her security interests, it is not easy to reject them. The most one can do, is to soften the harsh wording. In this regard the British diplomats are the masters. After the Brexit, Turkey is in a more difficult situation vis-a-vis Greece at EU meetings.
Greece must have understood by now that with the EU conclusions full of wish washy wordings, she could not reach anywhere. Apparently she has moved her steps against Turkey to bilateral levels. Firstly, on 28th September, Greece signed a stategic cooperation agreement with France in the field of defence and security. Last week she renewed the mutual defence cooperation agreement with the US (MDCA). In the meantime, Blinken, the US secretary of State sent a letter to Greek prime minister, Mitsotakis. Let’s have a look in more detail at the MDCA and Blinken’s letter.
Mutual defense cooperation Agreement
I witnessed my first exprience with multilateral diplomacy at the Turkish foreign ministry during the negotiations of Defense and economic cooperation Agreement (DECA) Turkey signed with USA in 1980. The US signed a similar agreement with Greece in 1990. Both are framework agreements and renewed on regular basis if necessary with minor alterations either by Exchange of letters or additional protocols. It seems that this time benefitting from the adverse course of Turkish-US relations Greece has demanded to include a security guarantee provision as in the Greek-French Agreement. Since it proved to be impossible, Greece offered military basis on some of the agean islands which have demilitarized status under international agreements. Fortunately our american friends this time stood firm. The Turkish foreign Ministry must also have lobied hard with the US State Department.
Blinken’s letter to Mitsotakis
Greece who has not been able to achieve inclusion of her proposals to the MDCA, must have pressured the US side to obtain security assuurances by virtue of a separate letter. Blinken’s letter of 12th september serves this purpose.There is no provision in the letter obliging US to assist Greece in case of agression. It is very likely that references to territorial integrity, sovereignty rights, internationl law of the sea and peaceful solution of disputes are included in the letter to satisfy Greece.Those references can also be interpreted diluting the declaration of Turkish Grand National Assembly dated 1995, widely known as casus belli. It is also noteworthy to see that both foregin Minister Dendias and Prime Minister favoured the letter rather than the agreement itself.The US must have realized that they have gone too far in favour of Greece. Ned Price, the spokesman of state department, couple of days ago, underlined that the US position to stay neutral regarding the disputes on delimitation of maritime boundaries has not changed.
What is casus belli?
In the most simplistic terms casus belli means reason for war. The Greek parliament while ratifying the United Nations Convention on law of the sea on 1st June 1995 authorized the Greek government to extend her territorial waters to 12 miles. In less than one week Turkish parliament replied by adopting a stand alone declaration. The declaration very skilfully crafted by late ambassaor Deniz Bölükbaşı who has wide experience in legal affairs contains neither the Word “casus belli” nor “war”. The declaration informed the Greek and the World public opinion with friendly sentiments that in the event Greece extending her territorial waters to 12 miles in the Agean where Turkey have vital inerest, she would take every measure including the military ones.The message must have been duly taken.
The mistakes of Greece
Turkish Greek relations are full of Greek mistakes.The decision of Greek Parliament’s casus belli decision in 1995 was a mistake as it was the case in Asia minor disaster which started in 1919 with the occupation of Symrna and ended with defeat in 1922, Imnia crises in 1996 and giving shelter to Öcalan in 1999. Tom Ellis, the editör-in chief of the English version of Kathimerini was right when he wrote: “ Nobody will fight our war for us.” There are still reasonable comments coming from the Greek side.