Sputnik: You are known by the concept of ‘Blue Homeland’. Can you explain this concept? What is Blue Homeland? While the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) gives limited sovereignty rights to states, based on the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) concept, how will Turkey make this Blue Homeland functional?
Cihat Yaycı: 1982 UNCLOS gives limited rights to coastal states regarding EEZ in contrast with territorial waters, but essentially EEZ attributes to the maritime zone of a coastal state on which the state has sovereign rights to exploit, preserve, and conduct marine researches on natural resources, geographical, geological, and biological assets; in waters adjacent to its coast, on the seabed, subsoil, within the continental shelf and its subsoil.
For this reason, EEZ may be also accepted as a part of the homeland. Therefore, Turkey is the owner of all resources falling into its own EEZ. We take exploiting from our maritime jurisdictions within the frame of the authority recognized by 1982 Convention, customary law and the principles of international maritime law for granted and we are always going to protect our rights. Blue Homeland is a doctrine specifying that as a peninsula state.
Turkey has 8,333 kilometres of coastline along with the Anatolia and Rumelia Peninsula and the country has approximately 462,000 square kilometres of maritime jurisdictions in Eastern Mediterranean, Aegean Sea (Islands Sea) Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea as a whole.
To start with, the EEZ that was declared in the Black Sea, the continental shelf in the Aegean Sea, adjacent coasts of Libya, Egypt, Lebanon, Israel in the eastern Mediterranean were determined as parts of the “Blue Homeland”. You see the blue coloured area in the map below.
The maritime jurisdiction areas of the Black Sea were determined in 1986.
The natural extension is the critical point for determining continental shelf delimitation. The Aegean Sea is a special case as there are so many islands and rocks and a semi-closed sea. In the Aegean Sea, the delimitation of the continental shelf must be regulated on the basis of Treaty of Lausanne.
Turkey has determined the west edge of maritime jurisdictions area in the Eastern Mediterranean with Turkey-Libya Maritime Boundary Delimitation Agreement in 2019.
For this reason, as we always say, Turkey has neither a national territory nor a drop of territorial water to give up, and it will not. To make Blue Homeland functional, one of the main steps was taken on 27 November 2019 with the “Memorandum of Understanding between the Republic of Turkey and the Government of National Accord–the State of Libya on the delimitation of the maritime jurisdiction areas in the Eastern Mediterranean” and we must carry on to make such bilateral maritime delimitation agreements with other neighbouring states Egypt, Israel, Lebanon and Syria.
This region, which we designate as the “Blue Homeland” and which we present to the world, is Turkey’s EEZ. Hence, we simply protect Turkey’s rights and interests regarding Turkey’s EEZ on a legal basis and in a peaceful way under international law.
Sputnik: Why was Turkey late in taking action in the Eastern Mediterranean? Which institutions had opposed these initiatives?
Cihat Yaycı: Over the years, Turkey has been in favour of the discussion of the maritime areas by the adjacent countries’ in the region. Turkey has refused to make decisions on this matter unilaterally or bilaterally.
Yet, Greek Cypriot Administration of Southern Cyprus’ (GCASC) unilateral EEZ declaration and the following bilateral agreements (with Lebanon, Israel, Egypt) and Turkey decision to take action to protect its rights and interests with international law after its awareness of Greece’s unilateral attempts.
In reference to it, Turkey signed maritime delimitation agreements with Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) in 2011 and with Libya in 2019. Turkey is following a governmental policy in this matter. There is no opposition to any institution or organizations, as far as I know.
Sputnik: So far Turkey, based on rightful political theses, has not signed the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, because of the Greek maximalist demands. But recently we have seen Ankara as constantly referring to international law. What international law is referred to?
Cihat Yaycı: Not having a signature in the agreement does not prevent Turkey from addressing it. In fact, the agreement’s provision has turned into customary law. The provisions Turkey continually opposes in this agreement are apparent.
The provisions that Turkey has been a persistent objector, is clear. Turkey has no other drawbacks about these provisions. Yet, Greece changes the provisions of this agreement, acts as though it has no adjacent countries and uses the agreement it violates as proof.
Turkey only makes references to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and makes references to the decisions of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the International Court of Arbitration (ICA).
According to the view that has been dominant since 1979, EEZ emerged as a positive rule of law at the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of Sea. This view is met with acceptance by various groups of authors despite their differing views on the special status of EEZ.
According to most writers on EEZ, international customary law allows single-handedly coastal states to declare a 200 mile-EEZ. Although Turkey is not a state party of 1958 Geneva Conventions and especially 1982 UNCLOS, it has been accepted that the provisions of these conventions became common law and Turkey has approached them respectfully in due course.
Even so, Turkey adopts some practices becoming customary law/common law in 1982 UNCLOS and uses the rights and powers arising from the Convention. That’s why not being a state party is not an obstacle for Turkey to refer to the Convention.
Turkey uses the rights and authorities derived from the provisions and conditions of 1982 UNCLOS as international customary law to protect the rights and interests of Turkey.
Turkey has actively participated in the preparatory work of the contract but has voted against the 1982 Convention because of Article 3 that regulates the width of territorial waters, Article 33 that regulates the contiguous zone, Article 121 that regulates the regime of islands.
Other reasons why Turkey did not sign the convention are provisions on enclosed or semi-enclosed seas and the “Delimitation of the EEZ and the Continental Shelf between States with Opposite and Adjacent Coasts” written on Article 74 and 83, contain binding decisions and obligatory procedures.
However, in so far as surrounded by water on its three sides, Turkey is not a state party to the Convention such as the US and Israel and to protect its maritime rights and interests, Turkey takes into consideration the importance of the new regulations and guidelines in the field of maritime law introduced by the Convention.
Even so, Turkey adopts some practices becoming customary law/common law in 1982 UNCLOS and uses the rights and powers arising from the Convention, the decisions of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the International Court of Arbitration (ICA).
Sputnik: You suggest that Turkey needs to declare EEZ in the Eastern Mediterranean as soon as possible. While the UNCLOS recommends agreements between state actors before declaring EEZ in times of conflicting interest, what should Turkey do?
Cihat Yaycı: 1982 UNCLOS has recommended to the state parties of the Convention that the parties must conclude some maritime jurisdictional problems in regards to the distance between the two states with adjacent coasts of less than 400 nautical miles with bilateral agreements and diplomatic dialogues.
However, there is no regulation stating that EEZ may not be declared unilaterally. Following Article 75 of 1982 UNCLOS, the coastal state must publish a map showing the EEZ declared or publish the lists of geographical coordinates as required and send a copy of them to the UN Secretary-General.
The SCGA declared its own EEZ extending up to 200 nautical miles unilaterally to the United Nations in 2004. With the map below, the Greek Cypriot Administration of Southern Cyprus (GCASC) declared its self-made EEZ to the United Nations. Hence, it is out of logic to expect Turkey to watch while Greece is extorting the majority of the eastern Mediterranean.
Many countries in the world have declared an EEZ. Concerning the Mediterranean, the following have made declarations: Syria on November 19, 2003, with a law, extending up to 200 nautical miles, Libya on May 27, 2009, with a law passed by the General People’s Congress of Libya, extending up to 200 nautical miles, Lebanon on August 17, 2010, passed a law regarding the exploration of oil and natural gas reserves.
Moreover, on October 19, 2010, the Permanent Representative of Lebanon to the United Nations submitted a maritime jurisdiction area declaration of delimitation to the Secretary-General of the United Nations following the EEZ Agreement between the SCGA and Lebanon, which was signed on January 17, 2007, indicating the southernmost starting points as the “Southern Part of the Lebanon-Cyprus Western Median Line” and the “Lebanon-Palestine Southern Median Line”.
In this regard, to save its rights and interests, for not being reactive, Turkey should declare its EEZ in the Eastern Mediterranean as soon as possible as if it had made deals with Lebanon, Israel, and Egypt in the case of need for the delimitation of maritime jurisdictions.
Sputnik: Is Greece not Turkey’s interlocutor, just as Egypt is, in solving issues in the Aegean or the Mediterranean, including the sharing of maritime jurisdiction zones?
Cihat Yaycı: Greece forms a territorial waters border by drawing a straight line between the islands of Crete and Rhodes and determines the EEZ area according to this line as if there is no sea between the islands.
As a result, this is not acceptable in terms of Turkey’s maritime rights and interests. It is contrary to international maritime law and it is the violation of the law. Greece is not our addressee in the Eastern Mediterranean. There is no problem between us related to the Eastern Mediterranean.
Only Greece has demanded from the maritime zone, which is our right. Greece is not our interlocutor in the Eastern Mediterranean regarding the sharing of maritime jurisdictions. However, we can negotiate some troubles on the Aegean Sea (Sea of Islands) with Greece.
Greece is not willing to discuss any issue other than the continental shelf in the Aegean Sea. All breaches by Greece including EGAYDAAK and islands that are armed and militarized despite the fact that they should be demilitarized must be discussed. We should return to the balance of the Treaty of Lausanne.
Article regulating the 3-mile territorial water rule from the Treaty of Lausanne has been violated by Greece.
Islands inside of 200 nautical miles, may not have a right to extend their EEZ beyond. EEZ is calculated from the mainland. Islands located on the opposite side of the median line between riparian states are accepted as natural prolongations of the state close to the shore.
This acceptance is related to the immutability of geography. When the case-law of the International Court of Justice and Permanent Courts of Arbitration is examined, it is publicly understood that in accordance with the principles of just and equitable share, “the principle of proportionality” and “the non-encroachment of the territory of another state”, the maritime jurisdiction areas of the islands on the opposite side of the median line should be calculated only as much as their territorial waters.
To put it briefly, “the dominance of the land over the sea” means an international maritime law principle assuming that the mainland should be taken as a basis in the delimitation of maritime jurisdictions and islands on the opposite side of the median line should have maritime jurisdiction as much as their territorial waters.
Simply, islands cannot interfere or block the two mainlands’ mutual maritime jurisdiction areas.
Sputnik: No one in the world takes seriously the maximalist theses that Greece puts forward over the Meis Island. Even Egypt did not accept it. Don’t you think that Turkey is taking this situation somewhat too seriously?
Cihat Yaycı: As you mentioned Egypt has not accepted Greece’s thesis that authorizes EEZ or continental shelf to Meis/Kızılhisar Island and has not considered Meis as a legally valid shore in this delimitation agreement. With that development, Greece has refuted its claims.
Meis/Kızılhisar island as a Greek island on the opposite side of the median line and Greece with Meis/Kızılhisar island endeavours to usurp approximately 50,000 square kilometres of maritime jurisdiction area from Turkey.
Furthermore, Greek islands facing the Eastern Mediterranean have a total coastline of 167 kilometres and it is illegal to request a maritime jurisdiction against the Anatolian coast of 1870 kilometres. Just behind the island of Meis and ignoring the Anatolian coasts, where it sits on the continental shelf, it is an EEZ.
Therefore, the claim that Greece is the EEZ of Meis and other islands does not coincide with the legal aspect and facts and is not an acceptable situation in terms of international law. Turkey always protects its rights and interests against these unlawful initiatives.
Besides, even if the European Union looks as if it is not taking Meis Island seriously, some of the institutions continue to use the Seville Map which is dated 2003. Turkey protected its rights and interests on 22 July when tension increased related to NAVTEX.
Despite Oruc Reis seismic exploration ship being in Turkey’s NAVTEX area, Greece opposed its activities and called for the EU to implement sanctions against Turkey.
Greece is demanding Meis’ maritime zone to be three times its mainland. In the cases of Great Britain, France and Spain, islands that is the opposite side of the median line are not accepted and did not gain EEZ as well, but the claims put forward against Turkey over Meis Island, are considered.
This is not a hallucination of Turkey. You can see the maps that the EU uses below. Either the EU or Greece reacts to the NAVTEX area declared by Turkey.
Thus, Turkey’s silence towards Greece’s unlawful claims on Meis Island’s maritime zone will pave Greece’s way in actualizing these claims. Those who recommend Turkey to stay silent in this matter are the ones to keep Turkey paralyzed.
First of all, the EU institutions which are referencing this map make corrections in their documents.
Sputnik: Did Turkey declare the latest NAVTEX in the wrong place?
Cihat Yaycı: In 2011 and 2012 Turkey licensed 28 degrees’ east longitude as NAVTEX to Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO). There is no error in this.
Sputnik: Does taking the Mediterranean problems into a legal framework not harm Turkey’s rightful political theses on objecting to the continental shelf and international compulsory jurisdiction authority, especially against Greece?
Cihat Yaycı: Turkey is a constitutional state. Turkey has based all its attempts on ICJ and ICA decisions. Turkey pursues its rights and interests in international law. Turkey’s decision to use international law and signing agreements has upset its enemies.
It is completely absurd to criticize Turkey for its use of international law. This is completely wrong and there is no right answer to this wrong question.
Sputnik: While Turkey’s parcels clash with the Greek Cypriot Administration’s, Brexit has brought the British bases on the island back on the agenda. As the bases form sovereign lands, they will purportedly claim continental shelf and sea areas. Will there be a problem with Turkey’s declared parcels in the future?
Cihat Yaycı: The United Kingdom has sovereign military bases named “Akrotiri and Dhekelia”, which are considered to be the territory of the United Kingdom according to international law, one is in Limassol and the other is in Larnaca on the island of Cyprus.
Therefore, if the United Kingdom claims maritime jurisdictions around the bases, the interlocutor of troubles will be Southern Cyprus Greek Administration, not Turkey. This case is not a concern for Turkey. Ironically, the Greek Cypriots will be having problems regarding Meis Island.
Sputnik: Is it possible to operate in a region where more than one actor is involved without being an international energy company today? Are the current costs of deep-water drilling, which are extremely expensive, not beyond the means of states?
Cihat Yaycı: Having multiple actors in the region is not an obstacle for obtaining the preservation of Turkey’s rights and interests under international law. Turkey has a great chance in this period since the state has 3 seismic research vessels (one of them belonging to 9 Eylül University which is called Piri Reis) and 3 drillships.
These ships provide independence to Turkey. However, the related Turkish governmental institutions may make these seismic research activities cost-effective by collaborating with energy companies.
Sputnik: What do you think about the Canal Istanbul project? What does it mean to Turkey, in terms of the Lausanne and Montreux Treaties, considered as the title deeds of the modern Turkish Republic?
Cihat Yaycı: Montreaux Convention regulates the use of Bosphorus, Sea of Marmara and the Dardanelles. If a ship is to enter the area, then it is compulsory for that ship to obey the Montreaux Treaty. If the Canal Istanbul Project is built, any ship that will enter or leave the Black Sea will have to comply with the Montreaux Treaty, when she enters to the Marmara Sea.
On the other hand, artificial canals can not be considered as natural waterways. So, these areas cannot be recognized as an island or waterway. Those need to be recognized as mainland with respect to Law of Sea.
Sputnik: After your resignation, you have focused on academic life, you continue your studies at the Center for Maritime and Global Strategies at Bahçeşehir University. What are your goals?
Cihat Yaycı: BAU Maritime and Global Strategies Center’s (BAUMAGS) target is to act as a globally leading research centre, think-tank, and school that closely follows international developments, relations, especially all the activities related to the seas/oceans (maritime issues, maritime law, sharing of the seas, etc.) and developments in this field.
In this context, our vision is also to determine, defend, and develop the rights and interests of Turkey under international law. BAUMAGS follows and evaluates international developments, relations, all activities related to the seas and oceans. Besides, it makes analyses and evaluations in significant areas such as law, political science, and international relations.
We aim to present products with the highest academic value by utilizing many national and global resources. As a multilingual centre, we publish our products in six languages for now and these are Turkish, English, Greek, Russian, Arabic, and French.
Another important role of the centre is to provide training to the participants who are interested and needed in this field thanks to the programs to be organized within the Maritime and Global Strategy School. We are going to organize congresses, symposia, panels, seminars, and workshops.
Besides, we are going to address the sensitive and difficult issues professionally and objectively thanks to think-tank style sessions and the common platform which is going to be created. Moreover, we are going to provide all student candidates with all the professional equipment they need in both theoretical and practical terms and training young academicians and experts by master and doctorate programs.
The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.