Claims of Greece on Controlling the Straits

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The military deployed in Greece by the United States of America (US), and the military bases of the US, especially in Alexandroupoli is discussed in Greek public opinion in the sense of sovereignty. Thus, on the background of the agreements signed with Northern Macedonia, Egypt, and Italy, it is known that the US is suppressing Greece. Former Prime Minister of Greece and President of SYRIZA Party Alexis Tsipras is criticizing Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis for being the first PM who lets foreign military to stay in the Greek territory for an indefinite time; moreover, he criticizes the agreement with the US, for not including support against Turkey. These are triggering to find reasonable justification for the agreements.

Former Chief of Staff of Greece Mikhail Kostarakos has written an article for Kathimerini newspaper. In his article, Kostarakos commented on why it is important to establish better relations with the US, to relax the public opinion of Greeks. On the other hand, he mentioned some allegations which may create problems with Turkey in the long term.

According to Kostarakos, who served as Chief of Staff between 2011-2015, Greece is the main element of Europe’s defense strategy, which includes Bulgaria, Romain, and Middle Europe, and Baltic countries that are feeling Russia’s threat on themselves. Kostarakos suggests that, Greece is a very crucial part for the resettlement due to having internal defense line from Souda Bay in Crete over the “islands” to Alexandroupoli.

Kostarakos believes that there are three defence lines following each other in the Aegean Sea. These are Lemnos-Lesvos, Evia-Ikaria-Samos, and Kythira-Crete-Karpathos-Rhodes lines. Because, according to Greece’s strategic military perception, Athens can stop anyone who passes from the Straits to Turkey, and the control of the Straits is given to Turkey, while the control of the entrance is given to Greece. Thus, in the Cold War Greece and Turkey were barriers of NATO in the southern line, from Spain to Turkey, against the Soviet Union and members of the Warsaw Pact.

Kostarakos suggests that, after the Cold-War, the policies of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have overturned the strategic chain. Moreover, those political choices have undermined the role of Turkey and compromised Turkish-American relations. That’s why, need to change Southern Chain is emerged again with the developments in Crimea in 2014, for controlling Russia.

According to former Chief of Staff of Greece, Ankara is not afraid of the US’s military capabilities, and knows that they will not be against Turkey and not stay there forever; therefore, they are not a threat. However, she is concerned about being left behind from the plans of the West, and slowly replacing to the other side.[1] Kostarakos tried to explain in a logical sense, even though he articulated concerns of Turkey from military bases of the US in Alexandroupoli, and its effect on public opinion; according to Greek politicians, borders of Greece with Turkey are seen as the European Union’s (EU) border with the East. Moreover, the basis of the strategy that he claims, cannot be that points that he mentioned.

If we consider Montreux Convention or Laussanne and Paris Peace Agreements are definitely not give right or responsibility to Greece for controlling the Straits, and there is not even an innuendo for that, it can be understood that Kostarakos is trying to prepare a basis in favor of Greece on the disputes of Aegean.[2]

Greece was never a part of controlling the straits in history. As Montreux Convention confirms, the control of the straits belongs to Turkey and Turkey is applying the regime decisively. Turkish Straits are one of the three straits which have specific status instead of free pass regime. In that sense, Greece cannot stop a ship that passes from Straits in the frame of rules determined in Montreux Convention legally. If she do so, it is not related to the safety of the straits.

On the other hand, the islands mentioned by Kostarakos is given to Greece in the Lausanne and Paris Peace Agreements on the non-military status. If we consider Cabinet Decision numbered 19412 established on 26 March 1987 on the Turkish Official Gazette, which gives Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO) oil exploration license in Samothrace, Lemnos, Lesbos, Chios, and İpsala deficits, Greece does not have the right of considering Aegean as an internal waters and Turkey does not recognize this.

Probably Kostarakos realizes that his miscalculated strategic view is not recognized by Turkey. Even he is trying to make consequences of the developments on the side of Greece. This aim is under the shadow of military power of the US, trying to set a block in Balkans against Russia. However, there is an increasing uneasy in public opinion against American bases. These explanations aiming Athens role in Greek public opinion.

As it can be understood, it is focused on Washington’s power against Turkey, instead of containment of Russia by the US in Greece. Nevertheless, she is not satisfied enough. The Project of the US, which aims transferring hydrocarbon as a gas over Alexandroupoli to Europe is accepted by Greece on energy security. However, letting America to establish military bases in Greece is creating threats.

If we consider the developments with increasing power of the US in Balkans, the evolving process, aiming lessen the power of Turkey, Russia and China, is transferred to Aegean Sea. Athens is aiming to transform the legal basis to realize the aims.

[1] Mikhail Kostarakos, “Turkey’s Crocodile Tears over Alexandroupoli”, Ekathimerini,, (Date of Accession 1.12.2021)

[2] Article 1 of the Protocol signed in addition to the Montreux Straits Convention signed on July 20, 1936, states that “Turkey may immediately remilitarise the zone of the Straits as defined in the Preamble to the said Convention.” (Turkey may immediately remilitarise the zone of the Straits as defined in the Preamble to the said Convention). Here, the non-military status around the straits was abolished only for Turkey. In this case, the non-military status of the islands stipulated in both the Lausanne (1923) and Paris (1947) Peace Treaties remains binding for Greece.

Gözde Kılıç Yaşın, 1998'de Ankara Üniversitesi Hukuk Fakültesi'nden mezun oldu. Yüksek lisans ve Doktora çalışmalarını aynı üniversitede Genel Kamu Hukuku alanında gerçekleştirdi. Uluslararası hukuk, soykırım suçu, savaş suçları, uluslararası göç, iltica, Ortodoks dünyası özelinde teostrateji, terör, su sorunları, enerji kaynakları ve enerji nakil hatları alanlarında çalışmakta; Balkan ülkeleri, Kıbrıs, Doğu Akdeniz özelinde siyasi, ticari, hukuki ve toplumsal gelişmeleri takip ederek politik öngörüler ışığında gelecek tasarımı çalışmaları gerçekleştirmektedir.