Letter from the Prime-Minister of Greece to World Leaders

Premier's letter to world leaders

Athens, 15/06/1996 (ANA):

The text of the premier's letter is as follows:

"I should like to make known my thoughts concerning the following developments which have taken place recently and constitute a cause of deep concern for my country.

"During the planning of the NATO exercise 'Dynamic Mix', the representative of the Turkish general staff submitted a statement (appendix 1), according to which Turkey opposed the inclusion in the exercise of the Greek island of Gavdos, which is located southwest of Crete, 'due to the disputed situation regarding sovereignty.'

"This outrageous Turkish statement was further accompanied by the recent request to the NATO military authorities 'not to include in the planning and operations of the exercise other islands and/or rocks around Crete' due to the dispute concerning the Greek sovereignty of same. In the days that followed, these claims were also adopted by high-ranking Turkish government officials as well as by Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz himself.

"It is, of course, generally known that Turkey has on a permanent basis been disputing a number of sea and air zones in the Aegean as well as Greece's sovereignty and control of these zones. This year, however, for the first time Ankara began to dispute Greek land territory (island) in the Aegean and consequently the existing borders between the two countries. After the Imia crisis, which brought the two countries to the brink of war, Turkey under Ms (Tansu) Ciller expanded its claims to include 3,000 islands, islets or rocks, reaching such a point of provocation to assert that any attempt by Greece 'to dispute Turkish sovereignty of these islands' would be a casus belli.

"The raising of new claims continued during the premiership of Mr. Yilmaz who, surpassing even Ms Ciller, disputed the Treaty of Lausanne itself.

"The aforementioned treaty, from a legal viewpoint, constitutes the cornerstone of the territorial status quo between Turkey and neighboring countries in the eastern Mediterranean. Although 70 (seventy) years have passed since the treaty came into effect, during which time it has been implemented without interruption or deviation, Turkey puts forward the claim that there are certain 'gaps' in the treaty, involving so-called 'grey areas' of sovereignty in the Aegean. It should be noted that the Treaty of Lausanne expressly stipulates that Turkish sovereignty in the Aegean is restricted to those islands which are located within three miles of the Turkish coast, as well as Imvros, Tenedos and the Lagouses complex (articles 6 and 12). In the same treaty, Turkey explicitly waives all its rights and titles to all territory and islands beyond this three-mile limit, with the exception of those specifically referred to in the treaty.

"The most recent incident, namely Ankara's claim relating to Gavdos which, it should be stressed, is an inhabited Greek island, as well as to other island groups around Crete, completes, up to now, the novel Turkish policy of comprehensively disputing the territorial status quo in the Aegean. This time moreover, Turkey is disputing groups of islands which lie hundreds of miles from the Turkish coast, and whose legal designation as Greek territory was determined 10 years prior to the Treaty of Lausanne, by virtue of the 1913 London Peace Treaty (article 4).

"It emerges from this brief description that Turkey is openly disputing all the legal provisions pertaining to Greece's titles to the Aegean islands and to the respective international borders. This stance comes as a great surprise to both Greece and the international community, not only because it constitutes a blatant violation of the general and specific rules of international law, but also because it creates a further source of serious threat for stability in the region, a region which is particularly volatile and which, in the course of the last six years, has been the theater for intense territorial rearrangement. Any expansion of territorial claims in the region in question may seriously upset the extremely delicate balance and stability, which came about recently, following enormous human and material sacrifices.

"In view of the above, the recent developments most certainly warrant your attention as well as any action which you may deem to be expedient in the interests of peace and stability in the region."