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Turkey’s New Threat to Peace
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: GEORGIA ECONOMOU
March 13, 2007—No. 16 (202) 785-8430

Turkey’s New Threat to Peace

WASHINGTON, DC—The following Op-Ed article appeared in the National Herald and Greek News.

Turkey’s New Threat to Peace

February 7, 2007

By Gene Rossides

The government of Cyprus signed an agreement with Lebanon on January 17, 2007 and with Egypt last year for joint exploration of oil and natural gas in an area 125 miles wide between Cyprus and the Mediterranean’s southern coast.

The Turkish government has threatened to block exploration asserting, incredibly, that is has rights in the area. In early February the Greek Cypriot media headlined that there was unexpected movement of Turkish warships along the southern coast of Cyprus. They accused Turkey of “muscle flexing” regarding the oil and gas exploration agreement among Cyprus, Lebanon and Egypt.

The Turkish television channel NTV reported that the Turkish warships had been sent to warn that Turkey “would safeguard its rights in the area.” Turkey, which is forty miles from the coast of northern Cyprus, has no rights in the continental shelf of Cyprus or in the area.

The Cyprus, Lebanon, Egypt consortium has engaged a Norwegian energy-consulting company to begin a survey of the area. The potential energy wealth has been estimated as high as $400 billion.

The Turkish government has stated that the government of Cyprus “does not represent the whole of the island” and that “its agreement with other interested parties have no validity for us.”

Then you had Turkey’s puppet, the Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat say that Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots “hold rights” regarding all natural resources on Cyprus and its area.

The Turkish and Turkish Cypriot statements were characterized by a government of Cyprus spokesman as “unacceptable provocation” and a threat to peace in the area. “Turkey is openly threatening” was the banner headlines of the Greek Cypriot daily Alithia.

In Athens the Greek government quickly gave full support to the Cyprus government and warned of a serious crisis.

Turkey and the rule of law

Turkey’s threats against Cyprus (and in effect Lebanon and Egypt) regarding the oil and gas exploration agreement among Cyprus, Lebanon and Egypt puts Turkey in direct violation of the UN Charter preamble and article 2, paragraph (4) and the NATO Treaty preamble and article 1.

UN Article 2(4) states:

“All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.”

The NATO Treaty Article 1 states:

“The Parties undertake, as set forth in the Charter of the United Nations, to settle any international dispute in which they may be involved by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security and justice are not endangered, and to refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force in any manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations.”

State Department and the Rule of Law

Unfortunately the State Department has failed once again to uphold the rule of law regarding Cyprus. The State Department spokesman Sean McCormack at the February 1, 2007 daily briefing and other daily briefings failed to state that Turkey has no right in the continental shelf of Cyprus and surrounding area.

Spokesman McCormack failed to state that the sovereign Republic of Cyprus obviously has the authority to enter into an oil and gas exploration agreement with Lebanon and Egypt.

Spokesman McCormack further failed to comment on the threats by Turkey and failed to condemn those threats and to state that Turkey violated the UN Charter Article 2(4) and the NATO Treaty Article 1 by those threats.¹

The State Department’s pro-Turkish bias on the rule of law damages U.S. interests in the region and the U.S. image in the region. We call for the rule of law and democracy in the Middle East Democracy Initiative, yet we do the opposite regarding their application to Cyprus and Turkey.

State’s comments and actions are a continuation of its appeasement of Turkey and application of a double standard on the rule of law for Turkey which damages U.S. interests. First, State violated U.S. laws in 1974 by failing to immediately halt arms shipments to Turkey when Turkey illegally used U.S. supplied arms to invade Cyprus. Secondly, State refused to state publicly that the maritime boundary in the Aegean Sea has been settled for many decades by international treaties and that the U.S. is a party to one of those treaties. Thirdly, State has failed to apply U.S. law to Turkey’s violations of religious freedom for the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the illegal closing of the Halki Theology School.

The rule of law in international affairs has been in the past a key fundamental principle of American foreign policy. The State Department should recall President Eisenhower’s remarks when he condemned and reversed the invasion of Egypt by Britain, France and Israel in October of 1956. In his memorable October 31, 1956 television and radio address to the nation on the Middle East crisis President Eisenhower said:

“There can be no peace without law. And there can be no law if we were to invoke one code of international conduct for those who oppose us and another for our friends.”

I urge all State Department officials, particularly the senior officials Secretary Condoleezza Rice, Deputy Secretary designate John Negroponte, Under Secretary Nicholas Burns, Assistant Secretary for Europe Dan Fried and Deputy Assistant Secretary Matt Bryza to read President Eisenhower’s entire speech, one of his most important, for its support of the United Nations and the rule of law in international affairs.

Gene Rossides is President of the American Hellenic Institute and former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury

Footnote

  1. On March 5, 2007, subsequent to this article, U.S. Ambassador to Cyprus, Ronald Schlicher made a forthright statement that Cyprus is a sovereign country and has the right to conclude agreements with Lebanon and Egypt. In response to questions regarding Turkey’s comments on Cyprus’ right to exploit possible oil and gas reserves in its economic zone, Ambassador Schlicher said:

“It is clear that the Republic of Cyprus is the sovereign authority, they have the right to conclude agreements such as the one concluded and anyone who challenges that right should do so finding legal peaceful ways to approach the issue.

• • • •

Discussion on this issue by all parties concerned should be in the spirit of how can the possibility of this new national wealth be used in a way that is going to facilitate the reunification of the island and not deepen the divisions on the island.

So, that is the position of my government and I hope that the source of discourse that we hear on this issue focuses on that question of reunification.”

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For additional information, please contact Georgia Economou at (202) 785-8430 or georgia@ahiworld.org. For general information regarding the activities of AHI, please view our Web site at http://www.ahiworld.org.