Legitimacy of Turkish claims in the eastern Mediterranean Sea on the basis of provisions of the International law

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Written by: Asist.lecturer  Zainab Atiwi /Researcher in the legal studies department  


Translated by:Hiba Abbas Mohammed Ali


The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea was established by the United Nations Assembly resolutions 3067 and adopted in 16/11/1972-1982, which includes general rules on the determination of the rights, responsibilities and duties of States in the maritime sphere, has also established guidelines governing business an environment, and the management of marine natural resources. It has been generally implemented but not accepted by different countries because it have not been taken into account the rights of a number of States with special situations, so a number of countries reserved some of their items despite Its approval, With regard to the eastern Mediterranean, several States have not signed the Convention and have not acceded to it, including Turkey.


According to this agreement, the islands have exclusive economic zones, similar to the coasts, which means that they are located off the Turkish coasts direct but under Greek sovereignty, thus Turkey will lose all economic areas off its coast, and because of this it refused to sign and join the law of the sea because it lost its rights .


There were many questions about the way the state would seek to demand Of their rights if not acceded to the United Nations agreement in 1982.



The answer is to refer to the provisions of article 279 of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which provided for the possibility of resorting to amicable methods of dispute settlement, as well as to article 33, paragraph 1, of the Charter of the United Nations, which stipulates that: Parties to a dispute that “can endanger the maintenance of peace and international security” must “resolve it through negotiation, investigation, mediation, conciliation, arbitration and judicial settlement” as well as other sources of international law that can be used to resolve disputes relating to maritime boundaries: Such as international legislation, international treaties, norms of custom and general principles of law.


The International Convention on the Law of the Sea has also adopted several principles, including justice, equity and the observance of the specific circumstances of each State. Article 59 of this Convention states that:” in cases where this Convention does not base on the coastal State or other States rights or jurisdiction within the exclusive economic zone, a dispute arises between the interests of the coastal State and any other State or States. The dispute should be resolved on the basis of equity and in the light of all relevant circumstances, taking into account the importance of the interests in dispute to both the parties and to the international community as a whole.



If the dispute is not resolved amicably, the provisions of article 233 of the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea, which contains a request for mandatory action by making binding decisions in the case, according to the request from any  dispute party and submitted to the competent court. Such as the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea at Nuremberg, Germany, After all the friendly ways to settle the dispute have ended. Moreover, the law of the sea does not allow any country to limit its maritime borders with other countries, and it encroises on the borders of other countries, regardless of the legal methods or rules on which it has been based.


According to this, we can recognize that Turkish claims to the waters of the Eastern Mediterranean are legally legitimate, based on the provisions of international law, even if they are not a signatory to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, This Convention did not require the conflicting State to be a member of this Convention so that it could be invoked, nor could any State in dispute with other States invoke its accession to the Convention, and there is legally no force for the State to enter into the Convention.


At the same time, Turkey is protecting its maritime borders Against Greece’s demands that it describes as expansionist and inflated, so many countries like Germany and Spain have tried to persuade both sides to sit at a negotiations table, But it cannot convince the Greek side because it finds permanent and unconditionally support from the European Union. Athens also signed an agreement with Egypt through which it violated the limits of the Turkish continental shelf, which Turkey agreed with Libya last year and which Greece objected to and challenged its legitimacy, and the subsequent continuous attempts by Greece to provoke Turkey.


Does the development of events raise the question of Greece’s willingness to negotiate with the Turkish side, when Greece is supported by the European Union? Greece could use this and force Turkey to submit to its demands. If so, it would be a major mistake on Greek side, and it could lead to a war with serious consequences.