‘Political correctness’ and the continental shelf


TAGS: Turkey, Security, Politics

The average Greek naturally feels concerned and insecure about the persisting tension in Greek-Turkish relations.

All sorts of pundits and journalists that are purported champions of the notions of “political correctness” and “equal distance” are here presented with a good opportunity to express their opinion in public.

You will hear them talking about the “maximalism” of the Greek positions, the “absurdity” of certain Greek arguments, the “reluctance” of the Greek side to enter a dialogue or negotiations with Turkey, the “failure” or the “bad timing” of certain Greek moves.

Sure, they will not go as far as to claim that Ankara’s actions are fair or legitimate; but their truly well-crafted articles will easily mislead any well-meaning and peaceful reader who is horrified, like any reasonable person, at the prospect of a military conflict that would cause death and other damage. 

Of course everyone should be able to express their opinion in a democracy.

However, in the case of Greek-Turkish relations, this particular category of pundits and journalists seem to miss a very important point. At the heart of the crisis and tensions lies Turkey’s utterly maximalist claim that islands do not generate continental shelf rights.

This claim is contrary to international law and to what is commonly accepted by governments across the world. And if islands do not have a continental shelf, then they have zero effect, only territorial waters.

On that line of argument, must exclusive economic zones (EEZ) in the area be demarcated according to the rules and interests of Turkey? Or is that not the case? 

No reasonable person wants to go to war, particularly when the balance of power is, objectively speaking, stacked against one’s own country. On the contrary, every reasonable person wants dialogue, negotiation and peace, if possible on a win-win basis (what the Turkish president would refer to as “kazan-kazan”).

And certainly, certain compromises can be made regarding the effect of islands, or other compromises on other issues, to the extent however that they will not undermine the country’s sovereignty. 

All that, however, on the condition that islands are entitled to a continental shelf – as everyone seems to acknowledge but Turkey. And when I say “everyone,” this hopefully includes the advocates of “political correctness” and “equal distance.”