Political expert: International law on Turkey's side in Cyprus energy row

Published 04.11.2014 00:37
Political expert: International law on Turkey's side in Cyprus energy row

Turkey is jurisdictionally correct according to international maritime law in the east Mediterranean zone conflict, according to political expert, Professor Dr. Ata Atun of the Near East University in Turkish Cyprus.

Progressive maritime laws from 1958 that govern continental shelves and economic zones on islands have been used by both Turkish and Greek Cypriots to assert their economic zone rights off the island of Cyprus.

According to the first maritime law of 1958 and the second maritime law of 1960, the east Mediterranean area is an exclusive economic zone of Egypt and Turkey, and therefore Greek Cyprus does not have rights for exploration in this region, Atun said.

The third maritime law of 1982, however, gives islands both continental shelves and exclusive economic zone rights. After the third maritime law, Greece declared its 12-mile continental shelf, and Turkey announced that the move would be "a cause of war," Atun said.

According to documents from the Turkish Foreign Ministry, the Aegean continental shelf constitutes a dispute between Turkey and Greece in the absence of a delimitation agreement between the two countries. The continental shelf dispute has a bearing on the overall equilibrium of rights and interests in the Aegean. The dispute concerns the areas of continental shelf to be attributed to Turkey and Greece beyond the 6-mile territorial sea in the Aegean.

Turkey is not a signatory to the third maritime law because of the Aegean islands. The rule of maritime law stipulates that all guarantors involved need to apply the law, but in the case of the island of Cyprus, as Turkey is not a signatory, the law cannot be implemented, Atun maintains.

In 1974, an attempt by Greece to annex the island through a coup attempt was made, which was resisted by a Turkish peace mission in accordance with the 1960 "Treaty of Guarantee." Consequently, the Turkish Cypriots set up their own Republic in 1983, while continuing the search for reconciliation.

The negotiations between the Turkish and Greek Cypriots resumed after a two-year pause in February 2013. The previous round of talks had collapsed because of the eurozone debt crisis and the Greek Cypriot side's turn to occupy the EU presidency in 2012. However, the Greek-Cypriot administration suspended the talks over the divided island on Oct. 7 after Turkey sent a ship to monitor an oil-and-gas exploration mission off the coast of Cyprus.

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