Letter to the Greek-American, May 21, 1996

The Editor
Mr. Makrias
The Greek-American Review
421 7th Avenue, Suite 810
New York, NY 10001-2002

To Mr. Makrias:

Professor Kousoulas' April article, "The Greek-Turkish Cold War", was courageous, forward-thinking . . . and gravely dangerous to Greece's future. Although his spirit of compromise will hopefully one day allow for the peaceful resolution of international disputes, Professor Kousoulas' quick fix of having Greece relinquish rights to its maritime territory in the Aegean in return for Turkey's pledge to respect Greek sovereignty over existing islands and borders is not so much a compromise as it is a mugging.

It does not take a great deal of insight to realize that the main driving force behind Turkish expansionism is not miscommunication or a lack of dialogue between Athens and Ankara but, quite simply, Turkey's will and ability to effect its expansionist policies. As long as Turkey holds a significantly disproportionate military advantage, and as long as it is allowed by the West to continue its belligerent course while still being encouraged to pursue its mantra of integration with the West, Ankara's long-term national objectives and actions will not be tempered by dialogue or compromise with Greece, but only furthered. Time and again we have seen that any agreement or compromise made by Turkey would be adhered to only until it remained expedient to do so.

Greece withdrew its veto on the EU customs union with Turkey in return for Turkish goodwill and the start of talks in earnest on ending Turkey's occupation of Cyprus. The result was an escalation of its claims on Greek territory in the Aegean and a continued intransigence on a Cyprus solution. Another related example involves the EU's agreement to a customs union with Turkey upon the condition that Turkey show progress in its dismal human rights performance, and particularly with regard to its Kurdish minority. A short time before the customs union vote, Turkey's lavishly funded PR firms frantically went to work manipulating Western public opinion, and the Turkish Parliament passed amendments to its Constitution making token and cosmetic reforms in its election law and lifting political restrictions on unions. Only days after the EU signed the long-awaited-for customs union with Turkey on March 6th of last year, Ankara completely about -faced and scores of Turkey's discriminated-against Alawite Muslim minority were killed by government forces during rioting. Within two weeks Turkey launched a massive invasion of Iraqi Kurdistan, visiting death, torture and other widespread and documented human rights violations upon Kurdish civilians.

Relying on a Turkish pledge to respect present land boundaries would be a pleasant reverie indeed, but one that would soon encounter the rude awakening of renewed Turkish belligerence. Compromising on Greece's 12-mile maritime territorial right would not only finally provide Turkey with a genuine legal basis upon which to limit Greece's control of her Aegean, but would further provide no guarantee that Turkey would respect Greek territory in the future.

Concessions under these circumstances would not only place Greece in a worse off position than she would have been before such a compromise, but would continue to encourage a pattern of what can only be characterized as extortion by Turkey. This is not a case of two parties disputing over genuine, or at least colorable, claims a necessary foundation for any workable compromise. Rather, Turkey's newfound claims on the Aegean, and particularly on Imia, involve clearly bogus and manufactured ones, as recognized by both parties, and are supported by nothing more than the threat of force.

The Imia dispute is right on point. Turkey has yet to provide any credible arguments in support of its claims on the islet, and communications recently leaked from the Turkish embassy in Rome confirm that Ankara was well aware of the unfounded nature of its claims. Despite an impressive, and rare, show of support by the EU for Greece's position, Turkey has somehow managed to once again transform a Greek right into a Turkish bargaining chip.

Compromise is not only an inappropriate method of dispute resolution under these circumstances but is doomed to create more problems than it will solve. As with Imia, Greece's right to claim 12 miles from her continental shelf is amply supported by customary international law as well as international treaty. Again, legal arguments in support of Ankara's position are patently disingenuous and are founded upon purely geostrategic considerations, making any concessions by Greece a product of coercion rather than compromise.

This is exactly why Greece's present offer of having Turkey take its claims to the International Court of Justice, an offer evincing great forbearance on the part of the Greek government, is not only the fairest method of resolving this dispute, but also one which would have a far more beneficial outcome for Greece than further concessions by Athens precipitated by Turkish military threats. Perhaps Greece should take Turkey's cue and start asserting equally untenable claims over Turkish territory, using these claims in turn as bargaining chips to neutralize Turkey's claims on Greek territory; but then that would make the Greeks no better than the Turks.

Relinquishing Greece's Aegean territorial waters would be tantamount to giving away what is arguably Greece's greatest geostrategic asset. From ancient times through W.W.II and the Cold War, Greece's command of the Aegean Sea has been of vital military and economic importance, which is exactly why Turkey views its Aegean claims as being so vital to its own national interests and its self-image as a regional power. Greece's control over the Aegean has given it great leverage with the U.S. as well as with Europe, and has served as a counterweight to Turkey's crucial control of the Dardanelles. Finally, the Aegean Sea has historically been a Hellenic geographical region without interruption for millennia, both ethnographically as well linguistically and economically if not always politically.

The price for such a huge concession by Greece should consist of far more than simply a pledge from Turkey that it will respect territory that Greece is already clearly entitled to. A comparable trade should involve equally valuable collateral; something along the lines of the repatriation of Constantinople and Smyrna, the return of Eastern Thrace, or the development of a genuinely friendly, democratic, forward-thinking and peaceful Turkish Government . . . with which Greece can genuinely compromise, cooperate with, and eventually welcome into the fold of civilized nations.

Very truly yours,

P. D. Spyropoulos, Esq.

[AHMP Home Page] [Announcements] [Media Alert!] [Recent Responses] [Responses by Source] [Responses by Topic]

HTML by the HR-Net Group / Hellenic Resources Institute, Inc.