November 29, 2022

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The Greek-Egyptian memorandum is a blow to the doctrine of the “blue homeland”

The memorandum signed yesterday in Cairo, according to which Greece and Egypt agree to joint search and rescue (SAR) operations in their exclusive economic zone from 2020, strikes at the heart of the “Blue Homeland” doctrine.

Since the two countries signed two years ago the partial demarcation of their exclusive economic zone between them – and thus the continental shelf was defined as well – it is clear that the part lying within the borders of the agreement is designated as a search and rescue zone.

In practice, the memorandum signed in Cairo is a logical continuation of the Greco-Egyptian agreement of August 2020, as it defines the boundaries of the search and rescue (SAR) area, as well as the jurisdiction of the FIR. After all, according to the International Maritime Organization, bilateral agreements between countries are needed to define search and rescue areas, and international practice is for search and rescue operations to coincide with each country’s FIR.

Therefore, it is important that yesterday’s step not only affect the Turkish-Libyan memorandum, in which the Greek-Egyptian agreement was associated, but also respond to the unilateral expansion on the part of Turkey since last year in its search and rescue area.

For a year now, Ankara, which has been systematically disputing the areas of responsibility of the Greek Special Region, illegally and arbitrarily, through internal legislation, has extended its own responsibility up to the 26th parallel, occupying a large part of the Greek FIR in both countries. Aegean Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. Its aim is to define the area involved in its permanent claims to the sovereign rights of Greece and to enclose the Greek islands in the areas of operational jurisdiction of Ankara. Movements that serve one goal after the Turkish-Libyan agreement, the “Blue Homeland” doctrine.

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Thus, with yesterday’s note, Athens sent a message to Ankara stating that the “blue homeland” is an empty and dead doctrine. The moves taken by the neighbor to achieve international recognition, codification and ratification are either unilateral, illegal and fall into a void – judging by the position of countries in the region such as Egypt, which does not recognize them – or they are. Bilateral, but still illegal, such as the Turkish-Libyan memorandum and the agreement on the exploitation of hydrocarbons with the Domeiba government in Tripoli.

It is significant that, with the exception of Egypt, Greece has entered into similar bilateral search-and-rescue operations with Italy, Malta and Cyprus. Whereas Turkey only entered into the illegal agreement with Libya and legalized its own SAR, as defined by it.

What happened yesterday is the result of a long-term diplomatic investment that Greece has made in its relationship with Egypt, with Turkey’s reaction every time any step is taken that cancels the “blue homeland”. And he will respond now, not at the expense of Egypt, which Erdogan is trying to get close to, as was also seen through the famous handshake with Sisi at the opening ceremony of the Qatar World Cup, but rather against Greece.

Had Ankara not intervened in the bombings against the Kurds in northern Syria and Iraq – with the clear tolerance of the United States of America – and preparing for a ground intervention, we might have seen the immediate activation of the Turkish-Libyan agreement on the issue of hydrocarbon research.

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However, judging by the statement made yesterday by the coordinator of the National Security Council at the White House, John Kirby, that Turkey faces a terrorist threat on its southern borders, a shift in the American position is evident. For tactical reasons with regard to Ukraine, as well as reasons related to the preference of the Americans, that Erdogan relieve the internal pressure he feels, on his east and not on his west.

The shift, which first appeared under Donald Trump when he … emptied the Syrian Kurds, and although Biden changed his strategy, it seems that the United States is retreating again, although the People’s Protection Units have given the hardest. Battles, with meager American means, against the Islamic State.

Most likely, this is related to the issue of Sweden and Finland joining NATO, in order to send a message from Washington to Ankara that it is listening to the issue of combating terrorism, whose flag Recep Tayyip Erdogan raised. Perhaps the United States hopes, with statements like this, that Turkey will soften and soften its opposition to Sweden so that the green light is finally given. I’m not sure that this will happen as quickly and easily as Americans would like.

* Konstantinos Filis is the Executive Director of IDIS and the International Affairs Analyst for ANT1