Turkey calls on Greece to demilitarise islands

Turkey called on Greece to demilitarise the Aegean islands off Turkey’s coast, in line with the Treaty of Lausanne.

“We make our demand on the basis of international law. What does Lausanne say? You cannot militarise the islands, but as you can see, Greece has done so,” Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar told Hürriyet newspaper columnist Fatih Çekirge in an interview at the weekend.

Turkey says the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne and the 1947 Paris Peace Treaty require Greece’s Aegean islands to remain demilitarised. It says that Greece has armed 16 out of the 23 islands since 1936 in violation of international law. Greece says circumstances have fundamentally changed and the restrictions no longer apply.

Lausanne foresaw the demilitarisation of the Greek islands of Limnos and Samothrace, the Dardanelles, the Sea of Marmara and the Bosporus straits, along with Turkey’s Imbros (Gokceada), Tenedos (Bozcaada) and Rabbit Islands (Tavşan). The Greek foreign ministry says the requirement was annulled by the 1936 Montreux Treaty, referring to a preamble of the document which stated that Montreux replaced Lausanne in its entirety.

Greece’s right to militarise Limnos and Samothrace was recognised by Turkey in an official letter sent in 1936 by the Turkish Ambassador to Athens. The provisions of the Paris Peace Treaty between Italy and the Allies in April 1947 provided for the demilitarisation of the Dodecanese islands in the southeast Aegean. Turkey is not a signatory to this treaty and the demilitarised status lost its raison d’être with the creation of NATO and the Warsaw Pact, Greece says.

Akar also criticised Greece for claiming 10 miles of territorial airspace off its coastline in the Aegean for a six-mile maritime border.

“Where is the justice in that? We will not allow any fait accompli. We are defending nothing but our rights,” Akar said.

Greece says it has the right to extend its territorial waters to 12 nautical miles from six under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. 

Turkey is not a part of the convention and sees any unilateral move by Greece as a cause of war.