Since the time of the Minoans, the Aegean Sea has served as a cradle of Hellenic civilization. With more than 2000 islands scattered throughout the Aegean, the region and its islands are critical to Greece’s economy, national security, and cultural heritage.
The Aegean Sea is experiencing the most dangerous escalation of tensions in decades
The Aegean Sea is currently experiencing the most dangerous escalation of tensions in decades as Turkey engages in a barrage of daily violations of Greek airspace and maritime boundaries, and disputes Greek sovereignty in the Aegean. There is a real danger that in the current environment of unrestrained Turkish aggression in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean an accident could rapidly escalate into a conflict between two NATO allies.
Turkish violations of Greek sovereign airspace and armed flyovers over islands in the Aegean are at dangerous levels, posing a real threat to peace and stability in the region. In the last ten years, Turkey has violated Greek airspace approximately well over 15,000 times. Greece is also countering Turkish violations of its maritime boundaries. Additionally, Turkey holds provocative and dangerous naval exercises – sometimes with live ammunition – in Greek territorial waters and around inhabited islands.
Turkey’s actions are putting lives at risk
When Turkish aircraft fly into Greek airspace, Greek fighter jets are forced to intercept Turkish planes, often leading to dangerous “dogfights”. In 2018 this led to the death of a Greek pilot who crashed after attempting to intercept a Turkish aircraft that had entered the country’s airspace. These dogfights often take place over Greek inhabited islands and in close proximity to civilian airports with high traffic. Turkey’s aggressive and dangerous behavior is putting lives at risk every day.
Turkey’s illegal agreement with Libya
On November 27, 2019, Turkey signed an agreement with the Tripoli-based government (GNA) of Libya purporting to declare new maritime boundaries, despite the fact there can be no maritime boundaries between the two nations, and purposefully ignoring the maritime zones of Greece, Cyprus, and Egypt. Turkey’s attempt to cut across boundaries clearly belonging to Greece, Egypt, and Cyprus under international law is its latest attempt to infringe on the sovereignty of Greece and Cyprus and to further destabilize the Aegean and the whole Eastern Mediterranean region.
Greece is showing restraint, but Turkey must be held accountable
With Turkey’s violations of Greek airspace and maritime boundaries at unprecedented levels, it is largely due to Greece’s responsible response that a serious incident has been avoided. Adding fuel to the fire, these violations are accompanied by statements from Turkish politicians who openly dispute the Treaty of Lausanne and the established borders between Greece and Turkey in the Aegean. Turkey’s reckless disregard for peace and its rejection of international law is a danger to the stability of the eastern Mediterranean, and must be condemned.
- The conflict in Libya and its regional consequences, The Greek Current Podcast, January 23, 2020
- Turkey’s Libya Gamble, Endy Zemenides, NEO Magazine, January 13, 2020
- Tiny Islands Make for Big Tensions Between Greece and Turkey, The New York Times, April 21, 2018.
- Greece, Turkey and the Aegean, Kathimerini, June 11, 2018