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Greece: Plans to create new marine park in the Aegean leads to new threats by Turkish government

Added 2024-04-11


The publication of Greek government plans to announce the creation of two new marine parks, one in the Ionian and one in the Aegean sea at the upcoming International "Our Ocean Conference" (Athens, April 15-17, 2024) has apparently provoked an angry sounding "warning" by the Turkish Foreign Ministry repeating claims, already dismissed as baseless by Greece, that some uninhabited islets in the centre of the Aegean (which would be included in the marine park) "have not been ceded to Greece by international treaties" as they were not specifically named along with larger islets and islands in those treaties! The small islands and islets between Milos and Nisyros (as we move from west to east in the Cycladic islands of the Aegean) are officially part of the EU Natura protected area network and known by ornithologists as "the Mediterranean Galapagos” because of their rich biodiversity, thanks to which environmentalists have succeeded in blocking wind-power projects in the recent past. The larger Aegean islands, which have fresh water sources and are world-known tourism destinations, have been continuously inhabited by Greeks for at least 3,500 years according to archaeological evidence, including during the four centuries of Ottoman-Turkish rule. Greece and Turkey have been (at least nominally) NATO allies since 1952, thirty years after their last war ended. They nearly went to war in 1974 over Cyprus and again in 1996 over two uninhabited islets off Kalymnos island. Constant increases in Greece's defence spending to keep up with its eastern neighbour led, among other factors, to the Greek financial crisis of the 2010s. Greece along with 167 other states, is a signatory of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), but Turkey is not, as the convention recognizes that (Greek Aegean) islands have territorial waters. In contrast, in recent years, Turkey has developed the nationalistic "Mavi Vatan" or Blue Homeland dogma, effectively disputing the ownership of half of the Aegean, possibly due to the existence of Oil and Gas deposits. In theory, a Greek marine park, as opposed to Greek Oil drilling in the area, should be seen by the international community as contributing to regional peace, but it appears even the most innocuous, pro-environment plan can be twisted in these turbulent times by wannabe regional mini-super-powers.