Turkey’s Aegean Policy: Aegean disputes constitute one of the main reasons for the fluctuating course of Turkish-Greek relations. Of these disputes, the dimensions of territorial waters, demarcation of the continental shelf, determination of maritime search and rescue zones, air space disputes, militarization of the Eastern Aegean Islands in breach of international agreements, the status of certain Aegean islets which were not ceded to Greece by international agreements and the absence of an agreement defining maritime borders with Greece in the Aegean are a few examples. These disputes remain unresolved mainly because of a lack of common understanding between the two sides regarding the “existence” of and “methods of solution” to the problems. Rejecting the existence of other disputes, Greece notes that the only dispute in the Aegean is the continental shelf issue. Trying to show the issues of Flight Information Region (FIR) and maritime search and rescue zones as a national sovereignty issue, Greece is claiming to have the full authority over the whole of the Aegean and is trying to get the support of EU on this issue.
Turkey believes that the Aegean Sea is a common sea and that no sovereignty rights should be claimed over the open seas and international airspaces in the Aegean Sea. However, the Greek insistence of viewing the whole of the Aegean as a Greek Sea and its incessant disregard of Turkish rights and interests complicate the solution of these disputes. Turkey sincerely wishes to reach a peaceful settlement of all Aegean problems through negotiations in a permanent, fair manner and through common accord. Within the framework of the process of rapprochement and dialogue between Turkey and Greece since August 1999, contacts have been made through a series of Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) and “exploratory negotiations” with respect to the Aegean problems. These negotiations are on going, and 24 Confidence Building Measures have been adopted so far. In addition, the 38th Round of the Exploratory Negotiations was held in Athens on March 7th, 2008.
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