The fact that the tension caused by arbitrary Turkish claims to the Imia rocks, which constitute an integral part of Greek sovereign territory, did not erupt into immediate conflict does not in the least mean that the danger has receded. On the contrary, Turkey continues to press its claims and the temporary return to the "status quo ante" does not constitute any form of solution since it is precisely the status of the islands before the recent crisis that Turkey has suddenly put into question.
This crisis is particularly serious because Turkey' s principal argument establishing her claim to these rocks is that the International Treaties that set down the territorial status of the southeastern Aegean are not necessarily valid. By setting into doubt the sovereignty of the Imia rocks Turkey seeks to overthrow the territorial status of the entire area.
As will be seen with greater detail in the following paragraphs, the Imia rocks have been under Greek sovereignty since the signing of the Paris Peace Treaty with Italy in 1947. For half a century Turkey did not raise any questions concerning the status of the islets and rocks and the reason for which she does so now is easily understood and falls within the pattern of Turkish intentions and actions over the past twenty years.
In 1974 Turkey invaded and occupied Cyprus in defiance of international law and the indignation of the international community as expressed in the resolutions of the Security Council and the General Assembly of the United Nations. At the same time, she turned her attention to the Aegean, where she set up the army of the Aegean, equipped with the largest fleet of landing craft in the Mediterranean, and put into question Greek sovereign rights concerning the continental shelf, control of the air-space of the area and Greece's right, as foreseen by international Law, to extend her territorial waters up to 12n.m. Turkey backed up her claims by daily, and at times massive, violations of Greek national air-space. In June of last year the Turkish Parliament, with the positive vote of every single member of the Turkish government, solemnly passed a resolution which empowered the Turkish government in advance to declare war should Greece exercise her rights concerning the extension of her territorial waters.
These actions, encouraged by the lack of any reaction on the part of the international conmmunity, have now been proven to be only the first steps in Turkey's design to usurp sovereignty of half the Aegean since she has now officially rejected the established status quo.
The events that led to the recent crisis are as follows: on the 25th of December 1995, the Turkish Cargo boat "Figen Akat" ran aground near the Greek islet Imia which is situated 2,5 miles from the Greek island of Kalolimnos. Although the accident occured in Greek territorial waters, the captain of the "Figen Akat" refused assistance from the competent Greek authorities claiming that he was within Turkish territorial waters. Nevertheless the ship was freed on the 28th of December through the aid of a Greek salvage company and was towed to the Turkish port of Gulluk.
On the 29th of December, the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs addressed a verbal note to the Embassy of Greece wherein it was asserted that the island of Imia constitutes a part of Turkish territory and that it was registered in the Registry of Deeds of the Turkish province of Mugla.
On the 10th of January 1996, the Greek Embassy addressed a verbal note to the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs in which the Turkish claim to the island was rejected on the grounds that Turkey had recognised the island of Imia as belonging to Italy by virtue of a bilateral agreement signed in 1932 and the island was subsequently ceded to Greece with the rest of the Dodecanese island chain by the Paris Peace Treaty of 1947.
More specifically, the verbal note reiterated that Italy and Turkey signed, on the 4th of January 1932, a convention concerning the sovereignty of the islets and rocks situated between the coasts of Anatolia and the island of Castellorizo as well as the islet of Kara-Ada and the delimitation of the territorial waters surrounding the aforementioned islets. This convention was signed in order to settle a difference that had arisen concerning the interpretation of the Treaty of Lausanne of 1923 by which Turkey had ceded the Dodecanese islands to Italy. On the occasion of the signature of this convention the two parties exchanged letters foreseeing the signature of a supplementary agreement concerning the delimitation of the remaining maritime frontier separating the Dodecanese islands from Turkey.
This second agreement was duly signed on the 28th of December 1932. It fixed 37 pairs of reference points one belonging to either party at an equal distance from which the maritime boundary was traced. Point thirty explicitly states the the Imia rocks belonging to Italy and the island of Kato belonging to Turkey would serve as reference points from which the median line fixing the maritime boundary between Turkey and the Dodecanese was traced.
The Convention of 1932 was duly ratified by both parties, the instruments of ratification were exchanged and the Convention was submitted to the Secretariat of the League of Nations. The Agreement of December 1932 being an annex to the original convention was not submitted to the League of Nations since it forms an integral part of the initial agreement.
Turkey was, from the outset, fully aware of these facts and of the baseless character of her claims but nevertheless persisted. On the 28th of January Turkish "journalists" tore down the Greek flag from Imia prompting the Greek authorities to replace it. On the 29th of January Turkey adressed a second verbal note to the Greek Embassy which asserted that the agreement of 1932 is no longer in force. The events that followed are well known.
The second Turkish verbal note claims that the Imia rocks fall under Turkish sovereignty because the agreements of 1932 are no longer valid for three reasons: first, that conditions were different when she signed the agreements of 1932, second that Greece is not a signatory to them and third that the legal status of the rocks, in this case the Imia rocks, but more generally in the Aegean region, is undetermined.
The first argument is so patently false that it requires no comment. Suffice it to say that any international treaty, let alone treaties concerning international frontiers, could thus be unilaterally abrogated.
The second argument is also patently false. Italy ceded the Dodecanese to Greece with the Paris Peace Treaty of February 1947. By International Law the successor state automatically assumes all the rights and obligations that have been established by international treaty between the initial possessor state and every third party. There is no need for any confirmation of the validity of any treaty regulating the status of the ceded territories. If the Turkish argument were valid then the majority of the Treaties regulating international frontiers after the First and Second World Wars would be invalid.
The third argument is also unfounded since the existing international treaties which govern the overall legal status in the Aegean make no distinction whatsoever for rocks and and islets and International Law in general makes no separate provisions with respect to their territorial waters.
Turkey claims that the matter should be settled through negotiation. But there
is nothing to negotiate about since the status of the islets and rocks is
absolutely clear and Turkey herself never challenged it in the past. Greece, on
her part, is determined to protect her rights through all means recognized by
Last updated: 5/March/1996