Our friend Professor Mallinson has sent us the following very interesting article, based on his own research on Turkish claims to the tiny Greek island of Gavdos, south of Crete. This claim is the most ‘crazy”’one formulated by Turkey on the Greek islands. It seems like a complete aberration, but not devoid of strategic meaning, as shown by the recent agreement on maritime zones signed between Turkey and the Tripoli administration in Libya. By this agreement, Turkey claims nearly half of the Eastern Mediterranean’s maritime zone, disregarding a great number of small and also very great (like Crete) islands.
Professor Mallinson describes correctly both the lack of serious will on the part of the Greek elite to defend its state, and the fact that Greece’s NATO ‘allies’ usually turn a blind eye to Turkey’s actions. This is an accurate description of the past. But will things remain the same? It is probable that they won’t, and this for two main reasons.
First, the Greek ‘system’ is now facing the combined results of ten years of economic and social disaster and humiliation imposed by Germany, the EU and the IMF, of Turkish threats and of the continuous pressure of refugees and immigrant flows from Turkey directed to Greece. It is maybe not very far from the point of rupture and unpredictability. We simply do not know how it will react faced with a new and bigger Turkish provocation, especially Turkish drills near Greek islands.
Second, there are probably extremist forces inside the international elite which are pushing, through very unorthodox and unconventional means, towards more destabilization in both Middle East and Europe. They need more chaos and war in the Middle East, they want the decomposition of the EU to smaller, less powerful regions.
A military conflict between Greece and Turkey can be in their interest. It will damage very seriously Greece, it will damage very seriously Turkey and its ambitions of “independence”, and it will deliver a heavy blow to the EU, incapable of facing such a challenge. This is only one of various possible scenarios, given the explosive situation in the Middle East, the crisis of the EU and the ‘civil war’ between ‘globalizers’” and ‘Neocon- Nationalists’ within the international elite.
Examining the situation of SE Europe, one should remember also that every crisis and/or military conflict between Greece and Turkey during the last century has been designed outside the region, but executed by Greek and Turkish “players”. For example, behind both Greek and Turkish nationalists in Cyprus was the notorious Gladio NATO network and, in last analysis, Americans, British and Israelis who wanted to fuel the Greek – Turkish confrontation in Cyprus, in order to deny Cypriots the right to exercise their sovereignty over an island considered of enormous strategic importance for US, for Britain and for Israel.
To play the eternal game of divide et impera, outside to the region forces have always used false signals in order to create fake perceptions to the local players. Americans let the Greek dictator Ioannidis believe that by staging the coup against Makarios in 1974 he would obtain the union of Cyprus with Greece. Instead, he obtained Turkish invasion in Cyprus. We cannot also be sure what was Ankara believing when they downed a Russian fighter in 2015.
Did anybody created to Mr. Erdogan the conviction that he may proceed with some kind of neo-ottoman project in Eastern Mediterrean? If that really happened – we have no idea – then it was most probable a great provocation.
In any case, what we are witnessing in the Eastern Mediterranean is the gradual accumulation of factors which can lead to a very serious military conflict.
Devils in details: Could Turkey grab a Greek island? *
By Professor William Mallinson
19 December 2019
Universitá Guglielmo Marconi
What could the current threat of war between two NATO members, Greece and Turkey, have to do with two beautiful little Greek islands? Read on, if you wish to think beyond the boring digitalised world of appinions.
Given the current worldwide disorder in relations between states, many IR theoreticians and alleged experts seem to have forgotten the necessity of hard research to try to understand the importance of detail. After all, who had heard of the Greek islands of Gavdos and Gavdopoula before the Imia crisis that nearly brought Greece and Turkey to the brink of war in 1996/7, a war which would have seriously embarrassed NATO (Greece and Turkey are both members), and helpedMoscow to – quite understandably – snigger at NATO’s rigor mortis? (Even French president Macron recently called NATO ‘brain dead’). For the uninitiated among the pundits and alleged specialists on the Eastern Mediterranean, and even world, events, Gavdos and Gavdopoula are Greek islands lying off the coast of Crete (which also houses a huge American naval base, whence Washington can try to control the Eastern Mediterranean, and even the whole Mediterranean, given the Kissinger-promoted Anglo-American special relationship’s control of Gibraltar and the British bases on Cyprus. But the US also uses a Turkish airbase, Inçirlik, hence NATO’s need for Turkey. And so now to the Greek, and even non-Greek, mainstream press.
This mainstream and compliant press seems happy to reflect the Greek government’s euphoria at apparent European support for Greece and Cyprus vis-à-vis neo-Ottoman threats, as witnessed by the European Council’srecent condemnation of the Libya-Turkey deal on maritime boundaries. Foreign Minister Dendias even said that Greece is ‘extremely satisfied’.
But how satisfied should Greece really be, given that the real and pre-existing problem, namely the Greek-Turkish air and sea borders in the Aegean, has not been solved ever since Turkey began to make its illegal claims in the Aegean following the 1955 British-planned failure of the 1955 tri-partite conference that led to the anti-Greek rioting in Turkey? What about Turkey’s almost daily illegal overflights of Greek islands?
Let us look at the backstage reality to see whether Greece could expect military support from its EU homologues in the case of Turkish suddenly seizing a small Greek island. I quote from an article that I wrote some years ago, because it is unlikely that anything has since altered in essence, despite the EU condemnation of the recent deal. My research reveals a lack of precision in the diplomacy surrounding the Aegean question, and a concomitant drop in standards of diplomacy itself, partly caused, I suspect, by the increasing use of social media by diplomats and politicians, in particular Twitter.
During the Imia affair in 1996, Turkey openly laid claim to a large number of Greek islands, including Gavdos, off the southern coast of Crete. I decided to try and ascertain on what specific grounds Turkey claimed Gavdos, and to ask a selection of governments through their Athens embassies, what their position on Gavdos was.
I began with the Turkish Embassy. On 15 June 2006, I sent the following question to IhanSaygili (who had been good enough to attend the launch of my book on Cyprus): ‘Does the government of the Republic of Turkey consider the isle of Gavdos (south of Crete) to be part of Greek territory?If not, why not?’
Obtaining an answer proved to be like squeezing blood form a stone. Months passed, withSaygiliapparently awaiting a response from Ankara. Then he was posted on, and a very friendly diplomat, ErginSoner, put me in touch with one BarisKalkavan, who asked me to send him a summary of my forthcoming book, since he did not see what it had to do with Gavdos! He also commented, inaccurately, that my published book was too pro-Greek (although I outlined the Turkish positions at length, having received answers from the Ambassador and the deputy lead of the Motherland Party). I waited until January 2007, and then telephoned Kalkavan. First he claimed that my question did not fit in with my book outline. When I contested this, he implied that this was not the real reason, but that the answer was too sensitive to be put on paper. I asked what this answer was, but he could not say. So much for Turkey’s ability to back up their ridiculous claims.
The British Embassy, usually coy and careful, was in this instancemore forthcoming and prompt, but nevertheless not overly precise. Tracy Gallagher replied:
‘HMG, like the rest of the international community [does this include Greece and Cyprus?] has not taken a formal position on any of the Aegean disputes (…). I understand that the UK issued a statement on Greek sovereignty over Gavdos in June 1996, which was reported by the BBC Greek Service at the time, but I have not seen the text. I have asked our research analysts to get hold of a copy.’
I followed this up, but the Embassy was unable to locate the statement, adding however that on 12 June 1996, a senior Greek MFA official had thanked the Ambassador for a helpful statement on Greek sovereignty over Gavdos that the official said the BBC Greek Service had carried. Mrs Gallagher then suggested that I consult the BBC Greek Service archives, a copy of which had been handed to the Greek Parliament.