Confidential Turkish military documents obtained by Nordic Monitor revealed that Turkey and Greece had disputes during NATO meetings over several issues including the status of islands in the Aegean Sea, Cyprus, military forces and equipment deployed in the region, the name of the Turkish straits and national airspace and territorial waters in the Aegean.
According to the memos, issued by the Plans and Principles Directorate of the Turkish General Staff in December 2015, Turkish representatives opposed NATO Communications and Information Agency (NCIA) documents [ACP 100 NS-1(Q) and ACP 117 NS-1(S)] that were shared on NATO’s Secret Wide Area Network due to references to Greek garrisons on Lemnos Island and vetoed a NATO chart revealing a Greek military presence on the “demilitarized” eastern Aegean islands.
In response, the Greek delegation vetoed a Turkish military forces chart that was submitted during the NATO Defence Planning Process (NDPP), the document said.
According to Turkey, the Treaty of Lausanne and its annexed convention provided that the eastern Aegean islands including Lemnos and Samothrace be demilitarized because of their importance for the security of the Turkish straits. Turkish officials thus considered the military plans and documents, which take note of a Greek military presence on these islands, a breach of their “demilitarized” status. The Lausanne Treaty, signed on July 24, 1923, recognized the boundaries of the newly established modern Turkey.
The memos revealed that the Greek representatives found the Turkish arguments unacceptable and claimed the l936 Montreux Convention Regarding the Regime of the Straits had changed the status of the islands.
Furthermore, the Greek delegation attempted to insert the positions of military and civilian radar into the Air Operation Directive during NATO Military Committee (MC) meetings in Brussels, the memos stated.
The military memos argued that the phrase “so-called demilitarized status,” which was inserted by Greece into the Submarine Operating and Danger Areas (STANAG 1193 AHP-6) document, should be deleted and that the submarine danger area for Rhodes Island should be excluded from STANAG 1193. The Rhodes submarine danger area was extended beyond Greek territorial waters and violated Turkish sovereignty in the Aegean Sea, the memos noted. However, Greece asserted that Rhodes was ceded along with all the other Dodecanese islands in full sovereignty to Greece after the World World II, and was demilitarized in Article 14 of the Paris Peace Treaties signed in 1947.
According to the document Turkey objected to the visits of military vessels operating in the Aegean Sea during NATO activities to the “demilitarized Aegean islands” and prevented the port visit of a vessel from the NATO Standing Maritime Group 2 in 2014. In that regard, the Turkish General Staff urged the foreign ministry to remind NATO members the United States, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Italy and Romania to refrain from such acts.
The memos also accused Greece of attempting to add information on garrisons, military aircraft and radar located on Lemnos to the AIRCOM Support Plan and the standard operating procedure of the NATO Combined Air Operations Center.
Moreover, the memos included the positions of both parties on the status of the Dodecanese Islands. On one hand Greece said the 1947 Paris Peace Treaties gave the Dodecanese Islands to Greece and that the clause regarding demilitarization of the Dodecanese bound it and other treaty signatories but not Turkey, which was not a party to the treaty.
On the other hand, Turkey argued that the 1947 Paris Peace Treaties created an objective status with respect to international law and that it had the right, even if partially, to take advantage of the stipulations of the 1947 Paris Peace Treaties in accordance with the 16th article of the Lausanne Treaty despite the fact that Turkey was not one of the countries that signed the treaty.
The military memos also exposed how Turkey monitored arms, military equipment and vehicles deployed (or provided) by other NATO members in the eastern Aegean islands. According to the documents the Turkish General Staff asked the foreign ministry to “deliver diplomatic demarches in order to persuade the United States, Germany, France, Belgium, Czech Republic [Czechia] and Slovakia about Greek military activities in eastern Aegean islands which violate international law and treaties.”
The name of Cyprus has become another conflict between Turkey and Greece at NATO meetings. According to the military documents, Turkish officials insisted on using the term “Cyprus island” in the NATO documents, messages and briefings, and argued that preferring the term “Cyprus” would be against the concept of partnership that was established by the 1960 treaties of guarantee, alliance and the establishment of the Republic of Cyprus. But Greece opposed the Turkish arguments and demanded that its allies use the term “Cyprus” with reference to the NATO Letter Codes for Geographical Entities (STANAG 1059), the memos showed.
Furthermore, the military memos revealed that Turkey requested that the two Turkish straits be named the “Istanbul Strait” and the “Çanakkale Strait,” whereas Greece described them as “Bosphorus” and “Dardanelles” in accordance with the Montreux Convention.
The Turkish straits system includes the Straits of Istanbul/Bosporus, Çanakkale/Dardanelles and the Marmara Sea, connecting the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. The l936 Montreux Convention gave the country control over the system and guaranteed the free passage of civilian vessels during peacetime.
According to the memos Turkey conducted Search and Rescue (SAR) activities/operations in the Aegean Sea as defined in the IMO Global SAR Plan and opposed the borders of the Greek SAR area in the Aegean Sea based on “Flight Information Region” (FIR) rules and thus sought an update in the NATO Search and Rescue Manual (STANAG 3552). However, Greece favored the current SAR system benefiting it from the FIR borders.
All airspace around the world is divided into FIRs in line with declared airspaces. Each FIR is managed by a controlling authority that has responsibility for ensuring that air traffic services are provided to aircraft flying within it. Greece had declared a 10 nautical mile (NM) wide national airspace in 1931 and later extended its territorial waters to the present 6 NM in 1936. Turkey argues that Greece’s claim to its 10 NM national airspace contravenes international law and that the airspace between Greece’s 6 NM territorial waters and its declared 10 NM national airspace is part of international airspace.
The memos also put forward that Turkey had not informed Greek authorities of the “Turkish military aircrafts flying over international airspace” and did not give approval to the ADATP-33 (Multi-link Standard Operating Procedures for Tactical Data Systems), which addresses data link information exchange on the basic interface, since Link-16 of the system included national FIR borders.
In the end, the military documents argued that Greece attempted to insert its “declared 10 NM national airspace” to the concept papers of the NATO Integrated Air Defence System (NATINAD) and NATO Integrated Air and Missile Defence System (NATINAMDS). NATINAMDS is a network of interconnected national and NATO systems comprising sensors, command and control facilities and weapons systems.