Friday, December 4, 2009

ICAO Chief Send Letter to Turkish Government

Several Greek sources report on a letter sent by the President of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Mr. Roberto Gonzalez to the Turkish Government with regards to violations of Greek airspace by the Turkish Air Force. Mr. Gonzalez commented on the issue after a meeting with the Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation Dimitris Reppas.

Mr. Gonzalez stated that in his letter he reminded Turkey of its obligations to air safety as a member of ICAO and that a system of notifications of flights must be in place.

At first glance this all seems like good news, especially when hearing comments such as those made by Assistant Minister Defence Beglitis (see here) about a framework through which Turkey’s behaviour is reported to various organisations such as NATO and the EU. But then Mr. Reppas makes the following comment with regards to all Mr. Gonzalez had to say: “facing a problem which is generated by Turkey and her policies is not a matter for ICAO”. This seems a little ungrateful after a “helping hand” from the President of ICAO itself. Then again, Mr. Gonzalez also included something in his statements which was picked up and reported by far fewer sources (for example En Kripto). Mr. Gonzalez commented on the difference between national airspace and international airspace, with him identifying international airspace as the airspace found above international waters.

So in effect, although ICAO is genuinely concerned about Turkey’s daily practices over the Aegean which endanger the lives of air travellers, at the same time ICAO itself does not (through the words of its President) recognise the Greek position of claiming airspace of 10 nautical miles yet only claiming 6 nautical miles of territorial waters. This “unique” situation cannot be solved due to the official Turkish casus belli (threat of war) in the event Greece expands her territorial waters, as allowed for by International Law.

The net result is that for decades Greece has been undermining her own arguments, rewarding Turkish aggression against Greek sovereign rights and in general has allowed Turkey to gain the upper hand in the ongoing struggle for control of the Aegean. There will never be a right time to call Turkey’s bluff and settle the airspace issue once and for all. All that has been happening is that the problem has been getting worse and is left for later generations to solve (or suffer the consequences of a solution being imposed, possibly by force).

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