9/10/2016. Why Erdogan denies the Lausanne Treaty
It is obvious that,by questioning the Treaty of Lausanne,Erdogan’s recent rhetoric could be considered a part of hisinternal political considerations. What is not obvious, however, is that Erdogan’sspeech constitutes a qualitative leap in a plethora of Turkish aspirations which have already begun in 1973.Then, Ankara had raised claims to the continental shelf of the eastern Aegean. What followed soon was the challenging of the boundaries of the Greek FIR (control area of civil aviation flights) and the rejection of Greek airspace of 10 miles. In fact, Ankara – from 1973 to 1974 – began building the conditions for a peculiar “siege” of the Greek islands of the eastern Aegean, which would prospectively allowed Turkey to raise even further territorial claims.
The next crucial step was taken in early 1996 with the official Turkish theory of “gray zones”, which caused the crisis at Imiaislet – along with the Greek Airforce pilots’ death. The standard practice of Ankara has always been to raise unilateral expansionist claims and then invite Athens to negotiate in order to divide the Greek rights. For this purpose, Turkey had always exercised direct or indirect military pressure. In that first crisis, Turkey not only claimed Greek territory but projected her aspirations as accomplishments. The challenge of the crisis and the threat of war forced Athens basically to accept the “graying” of the two islets. Those times, many inner-Governmental circles supported that Kostas Simitis administration – Greek Prime Minister from 1996 to 2004 – had been surprised by the qualitative escalation of the Turkish expansionism, but Turkish territorial claims were not a shock and were quite visible especially from June 1991.
Thus, the summer of 91’ the leader of the Turkish Naval forces – Commander Irfan Tinaz – had publicly claimed that the Aegean islets are not Greek territory. His astonishing declaration was indicative of the Ankara’s – unborn until then – intentions, but Athens pretended not listening. History teaches us, however, that when Ankara adds a new unilateral claim to the Greek-Turkish chart then she will definitely not forget it in the future. That specific Turkish tactic – which secretly fights to enter a subject for solving into the international community’s consciousness – is what makes Athens to believe that Erdogan’s provocative denial of the Lausanne Treaty is not a firework.
According to their theory, as many of the Aegean islands are not explicitly mentioned in the Treaty of Lausanne (1923) and Paris (1947), Turkish sovereignty is undermined. Ankara argues that all these islands that formerly belonged to the Ottoman Empire, should be attached to Turkey, which is the successor state. Erdogan surprisingly went even further by saying that Turkey is ready to negotiate with Athens their share! The theory of “gray areas” is perforated mainly because the Lausanne Treaty clearly states that Turkey shall absorb only those islands which are not explicitly mentioned in the Treaties and are in a three-mile zone from Minor Asia’s coastline. The same treaty allowedGreece to rightfully absorb not only the main islands but also the adjacent their adjacent islets.Regarding the Dodecanese, there was the Turkish-Italian Treaty (01/04/1932) (then the Dodecanese was under Italian occupation) that regulated the territorial status. Article 30 of that Treaty explicitly stated that the Imia islet – like all the other islands that today Turkey claimed – belonged to Italy and had been been ceded to Greece with the Treaty of Paris (1947).
What Ankara really attempts to manage is to display the Aegean as an ecumenical and abstract sea, where,although there are Greek islands throughout nearly its extent, those islands have and should not delimit the maritime border between the two countries. The statement of the Prime Minister Ciller, that time, in Hurriyet newspaper was crystal clear: “Until now Turkey had subconsciously accepted that these islands practicallybelong to Greece. We will change that. «Few days after Imia crisis (02/03/1996) Ciller supported that he would bring back the status of more than 1,000 islands and islets which – according to him – would rightfully form the Turkish soil. Official statements did not end with Ciller. In 1998 President Demirel – while interviewed by Hurriyet – claimed that 132 island belonged to Turkey. The deeper Ankara’s intentions have always been the destabilization of the Greek domination in the Aegean Sea.
Regarding the Lausanne Treaty, by signing it, Kemal wanted to close outer fronts in order to be able to consolidate his regime. Only after his regime had been stabilized would Turkey re-impose her claims in the Aegean Sea. In 1936, he achieved the Montreux Treaty to review the layout of the Lausanne Treaty which provided the demilitarization of the Straits. At the end of the 1930s Turkey annexed the province of Alexandretta, which belonged – until then – to the colonized Syria. However, Ankara’s claims did not stop there. Since the 1950s Ankara had been preparing for an expansive attempt in Cyprus – which became a reality in the invasion of 1974. The success of that, paved the way for escalating its claims in the Aegean Sea.
The Treaty of Lausanne is the birth certificate of the Turkish Republic’s establishment – something which the post-Kemalic Turkish leadership and Erdogan himself clearly intend to revise. The aftermath of the failed coup d’état left Erdogan much more powerful despite the plethora of analyses about the opposite. While speaking at Regional Commanders (Muhtars), he declared that: “With the Lausanne Treatywe gavethe Greek islands, in regards to which, which if we shout from the Aegean coast, we will be heard across. Is this a victory?”
While attempting to analyze Erdogan’s strategic plan, it is not difficult to observe that he wants to deconstruct Kemalism as the ideological foundation stone of the Turkish Republic. He proclaimed himself as the leader who will eventually shut the Kemalist brackets and who will re-impose the traditional Turkish neo-Ottoman vision for a great and sovereign country. Obviously, all of these are linked to the current political considerations. Erdogan seeks to complete his vision – to become the undoubted leader of a neo-Ottoman dynasty driven by the traditional Islamic preservations and ideals.
Now that he considers that he should establish himselfas an informal Sultan, Erdogan partially unwraps the agenda of Islamization within Turkey and the level of a direct projection of Turkey’s expansionist claims. For Erdogan the refugees-immigrants channeling the Greek islands are not only a pressure gun to Europe for posting compensation. It is an expansionary mortgage against Greece. At the same time, stuck in contradictions, the EU is incapable of seeing the big picture or having a plan of deterrence, while taking into account the legitimate national interests of member states. The first Berlin’s response to questioning of Lausanne Treaty by the Turkish President was: “We know that there are differences for long decades. However differences between Turkey and Greece on the delimitation of their borders shall and must be addressed by both countries and should be resolved peacefully. The German Government will not take any side on that game! «Once again, Greek Government and the Greek people are left alone to deal with Turkey’s aspirations and its claims while the majority of Greek youth is unemployed whilst; a 6-year economic recession has weakened the Greek moral and financial resistance to potential challenges.