Ankara, Turkey – A letter dated 18 March 2020 from the Permanent Representative of Turkey to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General. The official letter declared the geographical coordinates of the outer limits of the Turkish continental shelf between Point F (34° 16′ 13.72″N – 026° 19′ 11.64″E) and Point E (34° 09′ 07.90″N – 026° 39′ 06.30″E) as agreed by the delimitation agreement between Turkey and Libya (see map).
The Memorandum of Understanding, following the precedent of various judgments by international bodies of adjudication, is based on the principles that:
(a) islands cannot have a cut-off effect on the coastal projection of Turkey, the country with the longest continental coastline in Eastern Mediterranean;
(b) the islands which lie on the wrong side of the median line between two mainlands cannot create maritime jurisdiction areas beyond their territorial waters; and
(c) the length and direction of the coasts should be taken into account in delineating maritime jurisdiction areas.
Turkey, once again, emphasizes that it stands ready today, as it did in the past, to give its full support to ensure a just, equitable and peaceful solution to all pending issues, including the equitable delimitation of maritime jurisdiction areas with all relevant coastal States that it recognizes and with which it has diplomatic relations, in accordance with international law, in order to further contribute to the stability and prosperity of the whole Mediterranean basin. Turkey believes that building peace and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean will only be possible through dialogue and cooperation.
The map of the Turkey’s continental shelf and the borders of its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the Eastern Mediterranean following a maritime jurisdiction agreement with Libya.
With the chart, the outer boundaries of Turkey’s continental shelf and EEZ, designated in a 2011 agreement between Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), the median line between Egypt and Turkey’s mainlands and a recent memorandum with Libya.
The agreement, titled Restriction of Marine Jurisdictions, could expand security and military cooperation between Libya and Turkey.
Turkish Foreign Ministry said that the agreement was “in accordance with the court decisions that create the international jurisprudence and international law including the relevant articles of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.”
Stressing that Turkey has the longest continental coast line in the eastern Mediterranean. Foreign Ministry said “The islands which lie on the opposite side of the median line between two mainlands cannot create maritime jurisdiction areas beyond their territorial waters and that the length and direction of the coasts should be taken into account in delineating maritime jurisdiction areas.”
Turkey’s actions were based on international law and an “equity-based approach,” while regional countries that reject Turkey’s legitimate arguments were taking unilateral steps.
Turkey, as a guarantor nation for the TRNC, is currently carrying out hydrocarbon exploration activities in the Eastern Mediterranean with its two drilling vessels, Fatih and Yavuz, along with two other seismic vessels that are also operating in the same region.
Turkey has consistently contested the Greek Cypriot Administration’s unilateral drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean, asserting that the TRNC also has rights to the resources in the area.
In 1974, following a coup aiming at Cyprus’s annexation by Greece, Turkey had to intervene as a guarantor power. In 1983, the TRNC was founded.
Turkey’s Eastern Mediterranean energy policy on firm legal basis
Turkey’s oil and gas exploration and drilling activities in the Eastern Mediterranean are based on a strong international legal footing, according to energy experts on Thursday.
As part of the country’s hydrocarbon exploration activities, Turkey announced the start of new seismic research activity with the MTA Oruc Reis seismic vessel in the Eastern Mediterranean via NAVTEX (navigational telex).
Using a small islet (Meis) a few miles (2 km) distance from Turkey’s coast as justification, the Greek Foreign Ministry alleged the Turkish drillship MTA Oruc Reis had violated its rights in the Eastern Mediterranean continental shelf.
The rights of coastal states on continental shelves are a de facto incontestable and elementary right that does not necessitate any declaration.
According to international agreements, coastal countries have continental shelves, which are defined as 200 nautical miles from its shore, that maritime jurisdiction zones pertaining to bilateral agreements as well as international customary practices are based on the international law of the sea.
The agreement between Greece and Italy on maritime boundaries to establish an exclusive economic zone was based on and determined by their mainlands, which means Greece implicitly admits that the islands do not have rights to continental shelves and exclusive economic zones.
In the current situation, the islands that belong to Greece are on the natural extension of Turkey and therefore cannot be considered a continental shelf.
Since the International Court of Justice resolution requires the determination of a continental shelf be respectful of the principle of ‘equitable share’, Greece’s claims that these islands should be considered under its continental shelf are contrary to the ‘equitable share’ principle.
Greece’s stance also goes against the Lausanne Peace Treaty that affirms Turkey and Greece should equally benefit from the Aegean Sea.
The areas that Turkey is focusing its studies on with the Oruc Reis are sectors where Turkish Petroleum was granted seven licenses, and which fall under the maritime zone pact between Turkey and Libya.
Turkey and Libya signed landmark pacts on military cooperation and boundaries in the Mediterranean. The maritime pact asserted Turkey’s rights in the Eastern Mediterranean in the face of unilateral drilling by the Greek Cypriot Administration (GCA), while clarifying that the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) also has rights to the resources in the area.
In line with the international agreements and precedents set, Turkey’s actions hold a legal basis, however, Greece’s claims go against international law.
Greece acts in defiance of UNCLOS
The region where the MTA Oruc Reis seismic vessel operates is not within the Greek Exclusive Economic Zone as defined by the UN regulation on continental shelves.
Contesting the Greek contrary declarations, Greece abide by the principle of ‘equitable sharing’ since it is a signatory of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
In the implementation of this principle, the determinant factors are the distance between the islands and the mainland, the size of the islands and the length of their frontage.
The region off the coast of the Meis (Kastellorizo) Island, where the Oruc Reis drilling vessel is operating is 580 kilometers away from Greece, but only 2 kilometers away from Turkey.
The Greek claims over a continental shelf that covers tens of thousands of square kilometers are completely against the ‘equitable share’ principle of the UNCLOS of which Greece is a signatory state.
Turkey’s stronger claim and the boundary drawn based on the islands this close to the Turkish mainland is in defiance of Article 300 of the UNCLOS.
It is impossible to consider it in line with the principle of good faith or acceptable for Turkey, under Article 300, it says that “parties to the convention should fulfill their responsibilities in line with the principle of good faith and should enjoy the rights and liberties provided by the convention in a way that will not make room for any abuse of these rights.
Turkey on right side of International Law
It was against international law to define continental shelves based on islets far away from the mainland. The main criteria to delineate continental shelves are frontage lengths, distances from the mainland and location, which he said renders Greek claims null and void under international law.
It is completely incoherent to raise claims of a continental shelf over the islands in question. There is a high number of internationally legal conventions and resolutions for bilateral dealings between Greece and Italy, England and France, Nicaragua and Colombia, Libya and Malta, Tunisia and Italy, Papua New Guinea and Australia and many other cases as such.
Turkey relies on treaties like these in presenting and supporting its rightful claims and moreover the necessary initiatives have been taken and declarations have been made at the UN.
Within this framework, a NAVTEX has been broadcast about exploration within a region of 2 kilometers from the Turkish mainland in accordance with Turkey’s right to explore hydrocarbon resources.
No matter how uneasy they are with Turkey’s latest move, the Greeks have their hands tied legally, militarily, economically and politically.
Turkey will definitely not compromise on its rights nor will allow its powerful neighbors, such as Libya, to be bullied. Turkey is the strongest and legally most righteous state in the regions in every way.
Source: Letter dated 18 March 2020 from the Permanent Representative of Turkey to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General