RIEAS is publishing “Greek Oil Exploration Licenses and Economic Zone agreements in Eastern Mediterranean,” by Sema Sezer of the Turkish Center for Eurasian Strategic Studies (ASAM), not because it agrees with its arguments, but, rather, as a challenge to Greek experts to deliver a rebuttal.

Ms Sezer, an expert in Cyprus-Greece studies with an established academic record, has delivered a well documented paper. The fact, in itself, does testify to the author's organized preparation. Beyond the technical part, of course, lies the test of the arguments presented in the paper and the shaping of counter-arguments by those in this country who address the same issues as Ms Sezer.

Oil exploration rights constitute a highly dangerous point of friction between Greece and Turkey. In recent months, Turkey has further launched threats against the Republic of Cyprus, which unlike a hesitant, divided Greece, has  initiated oil exploration cooperation schemes in the waters of the eastern Mediterranean involving some of the biggest oil companies in the world.

Turkey claims that its proxy in the occupied north of Cyprus is also a sovereign entity with demands and rights re. exclusive economic zones equal to those of legitimate States. This so-called “Turkish republic” of northern Cyprus is of course recognized only by Turkey – and that is why Turkish threats of force against the legitimate, EU member Government of Cyprus, associated with oil exploration, obtain even greater urgency. Kosovo's less than welcome precedent has undoubtedly given ideas to the Turkish leadership, both military and civilian.

As we have said repeatedly before, RIEAS takes a dim view of Turkey's belligerent disposition in the Aegean. We are at odds with “friends” and “allies” who send their warplanes to make low passes over Greek inhabited islands and question Greek sovereignty in the Aegean Sea.

We certainly take issue with the threat of war against Greece expressed by the Turkish national assembly so many years ago and never retracted publicly despite Greek-Turkish “rapprochement.”

We do find Turkey not lifting a finger to stop the masses of illegal aliens leaving its shores to inundate the eastern Aegean Greek islands a hostile act.  We do believe that if the Turkish Government wished to really crack down on the smuggler rings that push the wretched throngs onto its Aegean coast, a miracle could indeed happen courtesy of Turkey's severe security services.

Oil deposits in the Aegean, and their exploitation, form a vastly greater threat against peace than anything we have seen before in the so-called “Greek-Turkish dispute,” an inaccurate term that implies a bilaterally-fueled conflict when all claims and demands emanate from Turkey, with Greece limited to (wrongly) repeating that “we claim nothing from no one.”

We would welcome papers like Ms Sezer's in the future. If anything, their publication in Greece could assist in making Turkey's approach to the “Greek-Turkish dispute” more broadly known and allow for better understanding of Turkish longer-term strategic goals in the Aegean and Cyprus. Read Mrs Sezer’s paper.

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