12 Ocak 2018 Cuma



21. Yüzyıl Türkiye Enstitüsü Balkan Kıbrıs Araştırmaları Merkezi Başkanı Diplomatik Gözlem Balkan Editörü

The visit by Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to Greece on December 7th-8th 2017, placed the Treaty of Lausanne on the agenda of the two countries. While Erdoğan had visited Greece twice as prime minister, it was his first visit as president. The visit was also significant as the first visit at presidential level since Celal Bayar’s in 1952, but the “war of words” that occurred drew unexpected levels of attention. Erdoğan left behind, surprised, nervous and angry people.

According to the detailed, yet still perhaps incomplete, coverage of the Turkish press, Erdoğan’s suggestion for an amendment to the Treaty of Lausanne stems from the fact that the Greek patriarch in Turkey is elected, but Muslims in Western Thrace cannot elect their mufti. However, Reuters added that Erdoğan said Turkey’s borders with its neighbours were unclear and that a permanent solution should be found for the Aegean and Cyprus. [1] This additional piece of information seems to explain why Greek President Prokopis Paulopoulos said “The Treaty of Lausanne defines the territory and sovereignty of Greece and the European Union and it is non-negotiable. The agreement has no faults and does not need to be revised” in reply and emphasised borders. According to Reuters, the issue was not the election of muftis but of the head-mufti, which is a separate issue. Also according to Reuters, the President of Turkey essentially said “How can we say that Lausanne is in effect. We need to prove that it is practicable by doing this (electing the head-mufti).” This expression should be seen as an initiative or reaction towards having Lausanne implemented, rather than a call for a revision. NTV coverage which reported Erdoğan as saying 1I thin there are some fine points about Lausanne which are still not understood” seems to back this up. [2]

This article will focus not on the meaning of Erdoğan’s statement on “revising and updating” Lausanne, but the approach of Greece to the Treaty of Lausanne over the objection of the Greek President to negotiating Lausanne and the Greek Minister of National Defence Panos Kammenos’s statement “If you don’t like Lausanne, you can have Sevres” [3] which was made in December 2016, in another controversy over Lausanne.  However, it should first be said that the Lausanne statement of Erdoğan, which according to the British press shocked Paulopoulos, has broken a chain. In recent contacts between Turkey and Greece, at various levels and indifferent to who hosted the meeting, press coverage almost exclusively focused on the expectations of the Fener Greek Patriarchate on ecumenism and the school for the clergy (as distinct from the problems of the Greek minority).  The “shock” created by Erdoğan during his visit on December 9th left no room for the same issues to be taken up by the Greek side and for Greece to talk from on high about human and minority rights with emphasis on its EU membership. On the contrary, some of the problems experienced by Turks in Western Thrace made it to the world press through quotations from the President of Turkey. Greece was called on to respect human rights. The polemic also drew the attention of every section to details. So the debate on Lausanne, which clearly cannot be changed, served this purpose alone. But is Greece really wholeheartedly attached to the Treaty of Lausanne?

Why Does Greece Not Want Any Change to Lausanne?

In truth, Greece does not adhere to the stipulations of the Treaty of Lausanne. It has expanded its territorial waters from the established 3 miles in the treaty to 6 miles in 1936. In 1931 it expanded its national airspace, which should be the same as its territorial waters to 10 miles. In 1955, it violated its obligations arising from Lausanne and the Paris Peace Agreement of 1947 to deploy soldiers and arms on the eastern Aegean islands and the Twelve Islands. It has engaged in practices to destroy the presence and special status, established at Lausanne, of the Western Thrace Turkish minority.   Therefore, there are few stipulations in the Treaty of Lausanne that Greece abides by. However, the idea  that the treaty is unalterable and non-negotiable rests on different reasons. The issues of borders and minorities are at the fore. 

The Aegean Border

When it comes to borders, including the land border that divides Thrace, Greece’s emphasis on the EU, or its defensive reflex to bring the EU into the matter, makes one thinks it has misgivings on the subject. Here, we will focus on the maritime sovereign zone that also concerns the land border. The 17 islands, which Greece has opened up to settlement since 2004, are more significant for establishing territorial waters, continental shelf, sovereign economic zone and sovereignty in general, rather than identifying authority zones at sea. That this is being done on islands and islets under Turkey’s sovereignty is another major issue.

The written and spoken notes issues by Greece on this issue in February 1950, May 1953, October 1956 and December 1962 indicate that Greece does not see itself as having a maritime border. Although Greece often displays the attitude that “Greek sovereign rights cannot be debated”, it is certain that Greece is not entirely sure about the ownership of the islands, islets and rocks it makes claims on.   Therefore, the most crucial point about the ownership of the Aegean islands is that the sea border between Turkey and Greece has not been drawn up.

The Greek claims is that all islands that have not been identified as Turkey's through treaties belong to Greece. This approach could only be valid if the Treaty of Sevres rather than Lausanne applied or if Greece was a successor of the Ottoman State. (Had it been the successor, Greece, not Turkey, would have paid back Ottoman debts.) However, the islands that were given to Greece have all been individually named in the Treaty of Lausanne of 1923 and the Paris Agreement of 1947 and it was stated that pieces of land that are to be considered “attached/subject islets" need to be accessible by walking from the main island. In map 2 annexed to article 15 of the Treaty of Lausanne, the 14 islands handed over to Italy (the Twelve Islands, Rhodes and Meis) were underlined in red.[4]British maps from 1939 and 1943 and American maps from 1951 and 1957 also clearly show the 17 islands and one rock occupied by Greece are outside of the sea zone of the twelve islands and belong to the Republic of Turkey.

While the legal, political and technical details of the issue would be better treated in another article, it should be noted that Greece takes advantage of Turkey’s silence. The approach of former Foreign Minister Davutoğlu to the occupied islands as “islands with unclear ownership that will be taken up in consultation meetings” and conflicting statements by various officials have led to Greece seeing the Treaty of Lausanne, which it violates, as a means to occupying islands belonging to Turkey. It is clear things have changed between 1999, when Turkey prevented Greece putting its flag on the Island of Eşek, to December 2008, when the Greek chief of staff landed on the island and January 5th 2009 when the Greek president came to the island and cast a cross in the water. Assuming that the exposure of the FETO terrorist organisation in Turkey has revealed previous mistakes in the Aegean, Erdoğan’s Lausanne move might be seen as making up for them.

Special Status of Minorities

There are two main points on this: The first is that the issue of minorities in Greece does not only have to do with the stipulations of the Treaty of Lausanne and minorities in Greece are not just Turks in Western Thrace. The issue of Greece’s minorities, the policies that apply to them and the policies that should apply merit another article. However, to touch the main points, Greece is bound by the Treaty of Athens of 1913 and the Treaty of Sevres of 1920. [5] The Treaty of Athens of 1913 takes up the issue of property conscientiously and allows congregation leadership to arrange for the election of muhtars and mufti, the management of foundations and relation with Istanbul. Article 8 of the Treaty of Sevres allows "Genealogical, religious and lingual minorities to establish religious and social organisations and schools to be funded by themselves" and is significant for covering ethnic and lingual minorities.  Meanwhile, article 9 states that the rights given to minorities cover territories gained after January 1st 1913[6] and any subsequently gained territory and is therefore binding not only on Western Thrace but also Rhodes and the Twelve Islands. Furthermore, with the Treaty of Sevres, Greece came under obligations to the League of Nations.

At this point the issue of “head-mufti” needs to be made clear. Western Thrace Turks only have elected muftis in Gümülcine and İskeçe, as muftis cannot be elected in Rhodes and Dedeağaç and cannot hold elections for a head-mufti. Erdoğan’s emphasis on the head-mufti should be seen as a demand that the current elected mufti should be recognised and for the next stage to begin. It seems that Greece was disturbed by this demand because it saw it this way too.

The crux of the issue is the issue of status of Turks –or Muslims to use Greece's terminology- who live outside of Western Thrace.  Because while embracing the Treaty of Lausanne, Greece takes the other two agreements to be invalid and thus limits the issue of minority status to Western Thrace. What should be the status of Turks in Rhodes and the Twelve Islands which Greece acquired later? Protocol 3 of the Treaty of Athens defines the obligations of Greece towards minorities as applying throughout the country. The Treaty of Sevres extends this obligation to any territory obtained or to be obtained by Greece after 1913. All stipulations apply for all minorities throughout Greece. At the session of the Lausanne Conference held on December 29th 1922, the Greek delegate called or annulling the Treaty of Athens. He was told that “The treaty under discussion cannot change any of Greece’s previous legal obligations and the conference does not have the power to annul or confirm such obligations.” This is significant for understanding the spirit of Lausanne.  On the other hand, Protocol XVI of the Final Charter of Lausanne states that it was decided that “With the Peace Agreement signed at the Lausanne Conference, the other charters would enter into force, while the issue of protection of minorities in Greece the stipulations of the agreement signed at Sevres on August 10th 1920 between the main Allied Nations and Greece should enter into force."  According to this protocol, the agreement signed at Sevres was ratified at Lausanne. Indeed, Greek ratified the Treaty of Sevres, which it had not done so until then, with documents dated September 29th and October 30th 1923. 

There is no reasonable explanation for why Greece, which refers to the Treaties of Athens and Sevres in its court decisions, has released itself from the obligations of these documents since 1981. That it embraces Lausanne is due to the same mentality. The approach, which describes Turks in Western Thrace as Muslim Hellenes, is intended to underrepresent the presence and rights of minorities in the country.   It is clear that Greece has the same obligations towards Turks in Rhodes and the Twelve Islands. By “same” it is meant that those rights which are identified in international agreements but Greece avoids implementing. 

Turks should also cover the Turkish Orthodox population that was sent to Greece in the exchange of populations and the Gagavuz who were already there.  When all agreements are taken up together the expression “genealogical and lingual minorities” and that Turkey is the successor of the Ottoman State ensure that Turkey should defend the rights of the Turkish minority.   One of the important features of Orthodox Christianity is its focus on national origins and is reflected in whether believers can worship in their own language or not.

Is not the issue of Albanians as citizens left behind by the Ottomans worth the same attention. In Turkey’s 2017 Foreign Policy Booklet, it was stated that the rights of the Sanjak Bosniacs would be protected, a first for a non-Turkish community. [7] So Turkey now protects the rights of peoples who are not Turkish. Given that a lot of the people of Albanian origin in Turkey are Chamerian Albanians who fled genocide in Greece, wouldn’t they consider that raising the issue of genocide is something that Turkey should do?   

This group can expand to include Orthodox Albanians[8], Macedonians, the Ulah… The issue of minorities lends another level of irony to Greece’s defence of the non-negotiability of the Treaty of Lausanne, which it constantly violates. Erdoğan, as a leader whose moves are unpredictable, caused shock and upset in Greece partly due to these background concerns that have not yet been voiced.

[1] Turkey's Erdogan, in Greece, says border treaty unclear, 7 December 2017, https://af.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idAFKBN1E11CL

[2] Erdoğan: Lozan konusunda hala anlaşılmayan incelikler var, 7 December 2017, https://www.ntv.com.tr/turkiye/erdogan-lozan-konusunda-hala-anlasilmayan-incelikler-var,Di8Z5ap8yEy3XmoDPVu99Q

[3] Yunanistan Savunma Bakanı: Erdoğan Lozan'ı istemiyorsa, Sevr'i verelim!, 1 December 2016, http://haber.sol.org.tr/dunya/yunanistan-savunma-bakani-erdogan-lozani-istemiyorsa-sevri-verelim-177663

[4] The author would like to thank Staff Colonel (retired) Ümit Yalım, former Secretary General of the Ministry of National Defence, for informing the Turkish public of these maps.  

[5] The Greek Treaty of Sevres was signed between Britain, France, Italy, Japan and Greece. It is a different document than the Treaty of Sevres signed by the Ottoman State.

[8] Plaka was known as the Albanian neighbourhood of Athens, where Albanians had their own court functioning in Albanian. This continued up until the 1940. Murat Hatipoğlu, Yunanistan’da Tanınmayan Azınlıklar, ABTTF Yay., https://www.abttf.org/BilimselCalismalar/ResearchSerie4_TR.pdf