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AHI Calls for Clear U.S. Statement Condemning and Refuting Illegal Claims by Turkey to Greek Soverign Territory
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: JONATHAN CLARKE
August 31, 1998 No. 38/98

AHI CALLS FOR CLEAR U.S. STATEMENT CONDEMNING AND REFUTING ILLEGAL CLAIMS BY TURKEY TO GREEK SOVEREIGN TERRITORY

On August 28, 1998, the American Hellenic Institute sent a letter to Assistant Secretary of State for European and Canadian Affairs Marc Grossman drawing attention to remarks by Turkish President Suleiman Demirel asserting Turkish claims to Greek sovereign territories in the Aegean. A copy of the letter is attached.

The letter cites a statement by Mr. Demirel reported in the August 25 issue of Hurriyet. Mr. Demirel is quoted as saying: "Some 132 islets or small islands exist in the Aegean. We refer to them as 'gray areas.' Agreements have not been made to define their status. We have said: 'They do not belong to you (Greece). They belong to us through heritage.'"

If accurate, Mr. Demirel's remarks violate international law as codified in a series of international treaties, conventions, and protocols dating from 1922. They are also dangerously destabilizing. Mr. Demirel is not a fringe, radical nationalist but the president of a country that(nominally at least(claims to be a U.S. ally. Turkey's irredentist claims against Greece, a fellow member of NATO, constitute a sad indictment of Turkey's view of its international obligations. Mr. Demirel's remarks are all the more irresponsible in as much as he raised them in the context of the risks of war in the Aegean.

The letter calls upon the Administration not to allow Mr. Demirel's remarks to go unchallenged. To do so will simply encourage Turkey to calculate that it enjoys tacit U.S. support. This in turn will stimulate further Turkish adventurism. To avert this danger the Administration needs to issue a firm and unambiguous statement that it regards these Turkish claims as without legal foundation and that, if Turkey wishes to pursue them, it should refer them immediately to the International Court of Justice at The Hague.

Failure to issue a statement on these lines will confirm that our government has decided to side with the Turkish military and its policy of destabilization in the Aegean rather than with those favoring stability and the application of international law. This is particularly the case in as much as, under the Turkish constitution, the Turkish military controls foreign policy and national security matters and is thus the force behind Mr. Demirel's remarks