One of the main questions in the diplomatic war between Greece and Turkey is where is Erdogan going with the appearance of all these unreal maps with which in the last months he has literally divided the Aegean in two?
Does he seek to lead the whole process to a legal settlement? Should there be an appeal to international jurisdiction to resolve the Greek-Turkish disputes? And is Turkey prepared to commit in writing that any court decision should be accepted by both parties? Turkey does not take a clear position on these issues, just as it does not give clear answers on whether or not the latest Bakhceli map has the “green light” of the Erdogan regime.
Practically speaking, however, the decision of the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs to publish and internationalize 16 maps that reflect the Turkish revisionist strategy of the last decades in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean caused severe discomfort in the neighboring country, as it considered that it had the exclusive “privilege” to use maps they try it by promoting the narrative of the “Blue Homeland”.
In fact, the Turks became enraged and brought back an issue that had been opened in 2020 with the map of Seville which had bothered them quite a bit. We are talking about 2007, when two Spanish professors recorded the maritime geography of Europe and the potential maritime zones of all member states. In it, Kastellorizo has influence and essentially connects the EEZs of Greece and Cyprus. The “Map of Seville” was created when the European Union asked the University of Seville to map the EEZs of European states based on the Law of the Sea of 1982. It is also commonly called the “map of the European Union”. It has haunted Turkey ever since, although it has not been used by Athens as an argument for a national line.
On the other hand, the strongest argument at the national line level for Turkey is certainly not the funny Bakhceli map, but the dangerous map of the Turkish Coast Guard which is now listed on its official page and has been filed with the IMO of the area it has legislated by in 2020 (with a new regulation), as its own competence for Search and Rescue, expanding the competences of its Coast Guard for this area. And this area is identified with the attached Map presented by Erdogan, which divides the Aegean in half, but also the maritime area in Cyprus in half. Here things are very difficult because the Athens FIR is also involved.
Aviation accident search and rescue is governed by Annex 12 of the 1944 Chicago Convention and ICAO Rules and Recommendations. The Greek area of responsibility for search and rescue, in cases of air accidents, has been defined by a regional air navigation agreement in the framework of the ICAO Conference in 1952 and coincides with the Athens FIR. What is not widely known is that in 1988, Turkey issued Regulation 1988/13559 (as amended by Regulation 2001/3275), which defined as its area of responsibility for the provision of search and rescue services, without specifying whether these are maritime or even air accidents, an area which, in addition to the Istanbul and Ankara FIRs, includes part of the Athens FIR up to about the middle of the Aegean Sea, trapping a large part of the Greek territory within the Turkish search and rescue area.
In October 2020, Turkey with its newest Regulation (3095/2020), which specifically refers to search and rescue for both maritime and air accidents, expanded its area of responsibility for search and rescue in the Mediterranean – within the Athens FIR – westwards until the 26th Meridian touching the external territorial waters of the eastern coasts of Crete, occupying a larger part of Greek territory (e.g. Kasos and Karpathos islands) and Greek search and rescue area. This Turkish action, i.e. the inclusion of Greek islands, Greek territorial waters and Greek airspace in the Turkish search and rescue area clearly violates Greece’s sovereignty and the relevant International Conventions.
In conclusion the “war” of the maps is not something that is limited to the jokes presented by Bakhceli. Behind it there is a strong legal background which Erdogan is trying to build successfully against international organizations.