While waiting for the 62nd round of exploratory talks between Greece-Turkey, Ankara issued a new Navtex between 18 February and 02 March for maritime surveys. This time between the islands of Lemnos and Skyros, in the middle of the Aegean. It is worth mentioning that Lemnos is among the islands in eastern Aegean which Turkey demands to be demilitarized. (See Navtex and map below).
Also important is that the new Navtex is located exactly at the point where Turkey claims the Aegean should be split – i.e. along the 25th meridian (see map). Thus the location is not accidental. Of course this is not the first time that Turkey operates around this area. They conducted military drills in close by locations during 2018. But today these moves should be contextualized in the broader Turkish strategy that we’ve seen unfolding particularly since 2019 and includes the Cyprus’ EEZ, the Turkey-Libya MoU (and Turkey’s broader involvement in that country), the surveys south of Kastellorizo, the new drillship, etc.
It occurs that Turkey and Erdogan had no intention for these exploratory talks to succeed. Regional strategy aside, faced with a number of domestic pressures Erdogan cannot easily proceed to a mutually beneficial agreement with Greece because that would make him look weak. The geopolitical strategy remains. But at a juncture where he is looking for electoral allies, in view of potential snap elections this or next year, and seems to be stuck with the nationalists of MHP, a more moderate approach to Greece-Turkey issues seems rather unlikely. The reproduction of the crisis seems more likely, as that would appease certain political parties domestically and garner more nationalist votes. At least for the time being, the Biden-Blinken factor doesn’t seem to work very well. Not to mention the EU.
A Drop of History
Between 26-30 October 1918, following its WWI defeat, then Ottoman government accepted and signed an armistice. It was “negotiated” and signed aboard Agamemnon, a Royal Navy flagship under the command of British Admiral Calthorpe, anchored in Lemnos’ Mudros harbor (south of the island). Calthorpe was empowered by the Allies to negotiate the Armistice of Mudros that was very much humiliating for the Ottoman Empire and opened the way for the also devastating Treaty of Sevres (1920). The rival to Ottoman government resistance (or nationalist) movement was not happy with the Mudros Armistice or Sevres Treaty.
So, whereas, according to historian Erik Zurcher, “Turkish historiography has conditioned us to juxtapose the defeat of 1918 and the armistice that ensued with the triumph of 1922”, for #Erdogan this could not really be considered a triumph or sufficient because of the concessions Kemal’s resistance movement made between 1919 and 1923 (Lausanne Treaty). It is by now clear that Erdogan is not only unhappy with the historical moments of the Mudros Armistice and Sevres Treaty but also with the Lausanne Treaty. Hence the talk about the National Pact, revising Lausanne, Mavi Vatan, etc.
By Zenonas Tziarras