Captain-Lawyer Cahit Istikbal, author of the book "The Eastern Mediterranean Problem", focused on the SAR agreement between Greece and Egypt.
Greece continues its provocative stance on maritime jurisdiction areas.
She is actually aware that Turkey's theses are more valid and stronger than her in the context of international law.
Partly for this reason, partly because of its traditional impertinence, it constantly adopts a provocative attitude and degenerates even the most basic concepts of international law.
In this respect, it can be said that Greece forced Turkey to make mistakes on the basis of degenerative-provocative policies, and although it was mostly unsuccessful, it made small gains from time to time, and these small gains encouraged it to maintain its stance in the long run.
We will return to this subject of small gains later or in another article. In fact, those who have read my book "The Eastern Mediterranean Question" immediately understood what I mean.
In Turkey, the most stable attitude belongs to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This institution continues to defend the interests of our State in the most effective way, without compromising Turkey's rightful policies and without being exposed in terms of international law, by resisting all provocative attitudes and behaviors both internally and externally.
Internally, some emerging populist-opportunists continue their discourse by putting the event in the bag of basic nationalism and leaving them with the risk of being automatically thrown into the opposite bag. People who know international law well and who are not populist-opportunists have become increasingly indifferent to this situation. As a result of this, the field is left to those who do not know international law, but who use populist rhetoric to put themselves in the foreground.
In my opinion, an intellectual and an expert does not really need to be a populist or an opportunist. His duty is to tell the truth in a fair way, of course keeping the interests of the lands he lives in the foreground. Because man or people can be crooked, but humanity cannot be crooked, it is true. Although humanity falters and stumbles, it eventually finds the right path. Because that is what is in his nature. Ideas, views and policies that do not conform to the common truth of humanity are difficult to win in the long run. For this reason, the service of an intellectual and expert to his country should be beneficial in the long run and in parallel with the common conscience and truths of humanity. The opposite would be populism and opportunism, not service—as some have done and are still doing.
Let's come to Greece's new provocation.
Greece and Egypt signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Aviation and Maritime Search and Rescue in Cairo on Tuesday, November 22, 2022.
Greek Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos, who signed the Memorandum of Understanding with his Egyptian counterpart, Mohamed Zaki, asserted that the signed memorandum "defines the jurisdiction and areas of responsibility for Search and Rescue between Greece and Egypt, which are the same as the Athens and Cairo FIRs, respectively."
This move by Greece came just days after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan shook hands with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah es-Sisi in Doha, the capital of Qatar, where he was visiting for the opening ceremony of the World Cup.
Of course, it would be unrealistic to argue that Greece was able to organize this move in such a short time. However, it is another fact that Greece has used this memorandum of understanding, which has no value in terms of maritime jurisdiction areas, with the aim of bringing Egypt and Turkey into confrontation by attributing an importance beyond what it is.
Turkey's response to this signed memorandum of understanding has been solemn, reminding the requirements of international law.
While answering the question about the Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in Search and Rescue Fields signed between Greece and Egypt on November 22, 2022, Spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ambassador Tanju Bilgiç said that Search and Rescue-SAR areas at sea are service areas for saving human lives. reminded that these areas are not “areas of sovereignty” according to international law.
Ambassador Bilgiç said that the rules regarding search and rescue areas were determined by the 1979 Hamburg Convention, and that according to the Convention, countries are responsible for cooperating in case the service areas overlap with each other.
The search and rescue zones at sea declared by Turkey and Greece in the Aegean and Mediterranean and notified to the International Maritime Organization overlap with each other. What needs to be done is for Greece and Turkey to come together in terms of the overlapping parts of these areas of responsibility, which they have declared separately, and resolve this conflict together.
The situation is not different in the Ministry of National Education announcement. It is only possible for two states to come together and sign the Exclusive Economic Zone Agreement for a maritime area where they have a common riparian zone, only if there is no other littoral state in the same area. If there is another riparian state or states, two states cannot come together and assert jurisdiction in a maritime area against their consent. It has binding effect on all states as a rule of customary international law, regardless of whether they are signatories to UNCLOS.
There is a similar situation in terms of SAR Areas, as stated by the Foreign Affairs Spokesperson. Greece and Egypt coming together and sharing search and rescue powers in a region where Turkey is also a riparian will not be binding on Turkey in terms of international law and is invalid. However, in any case, presenting this agreement as if it were a challenge to the EEZ Treaty signed between Turkey and Libya is not a correct proposition in terms of international law, and -as we mentioned at the beginning--as we mentioned at the beginning- it is another outward expression of Greece's traditional provocative policies. is the hit.
Greece has always refrained from cooperating with Turkey on SAR areas and has rejected proposals for an agreement in the past. According to the Foreign Affairs Spokesperson, this is because Greece claims that search and rescue service areas are under its sovereignty and connects them with maximalist maritime jurisdiction claims. This approach of Greece is against the 1979 Hamburg Convention and is an illegal attitude. Therefore, it is not possible to attribute a meaning beyond these facts to the memorandum of understanding signed between Greece and Egypt.
Turkish foreign affairs also saw it as a contradiction that a state that pushed back innocent asylum seekers in the Aegean in violation of international law and put their lives at risk, signed a memorandum of understanding on search and rescue in the Eastern Mediterranean, which is true.
The FIR issue, on the other hand, is an issue that cannot be connected with the MoNE Agreement signed between Turkey and Libya.
In terms of international law, Coastal States have full sovereignty over their territorial waters. The “right of innocent passage” granted to ships is considered an exception; does not violate full sovereignty. Full sovereignty defines the use of all three of the legislative, executive and judicial powers. The coastal state has full sovereignty, which includes the right to regulate maritime transport (retaining the 'right of innocent passage' granted by UNCLOS) and the right to investigate any accident that may occur. However, the extent of a Coastal State's jurisdiction over the EEZ is not clear. The dominance of the coastal zone over the EEZ cannot be mentioned; some sovereign powers have been given, but they cannot be regarded as "full sovereignty" as in territorial waters. . They exercise 'sovereignty rights' over marine resources in the seabed and water column. In this respect, the EEZ continues to be "international waters" and the freedom of navigation of ships continues. Again, the airspace over the EEZ is not under the control of the relevant coastal state. The coastal state has the authority to establish wind farms here, but the aircraft's FIR line etc. EEZ does not grant sovereign powers to the coastal state in such matters.
As a result; It is not valid in terms of international law to try to present the Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in Search and Rescue Areas signed between Greece and Egypt on November 22, 2022 as a challenge to the maritime jurisdiction areas declared by the EEZ agreement signed between Turkey and Libya. The answer given by the Turkish Foreign Ministry is a dignified and appropriate one. What Greece is trying to do is to prevent the softening between Turkey and Egypt by presenting a challenge that does not exist and by throwing Egypt forward with itself as a supporter of this challenge. You should not listen to them.
At this point, it is necessary to ask the populists who portray the exclusive economic zones as "part of the Blue Homeland". Well, if you attribute such great sovereignty to the Exclusive Economic Zones, look, we have had to try to explain here throughout this article that these regions do not give that much sovereignty. What will we do then?
Let's stop and think for a while, let's take long-term steps.