During the planning of the NATO exercise "DYNAMIC MIX 1996" in Naples (Italy), to take place in the area of Crete (Greece), the Representative of the Turkish General Staff submitted a statement (dated May 30, 1996), according to which Turkey opposes the inclusion of the Greek island of Gavdos (situated southwest of Crete) in the said exercise, allegedly "due to its disputed status of property."
This phenomenal Turkish allegation was extended further to cover all islands surrounding Crete, and was endorsed in the following days by senior officials of the Turkish Government as well as by Turkish Prime Minister Yilmaz himself.
The Turkish Representative suggested that NATO officials should refrain from becoming involved in what he termed a "dispute."
Turkey has been challenging Greek sovereign rights in the Aegean for over 20 years (national airspace, continental shelf, territorial waters, etc.). However, this year, for the first time in recent history, Turkey also proceeded to make direct claims on Greek sovereign territory.
Starting with the Imia crisis, which led the two countries to the brink of war, Turkey, under the prime-ministership of Mrs. Ciller, expanded her claims to a stated number of "3,000 Aegean islands." In a remarkable statement, Mrs. Ciller declared as "casus belli" any "attempt of Greece" to "challenge the Turkish sovereignty over these islands."
The claims continued with Prime Minister Yilmaz, who further extended the line of provocation, now challenging the 1923 Peace Treaty of Lausanne itself, which is the legal cornerstone of the frontier status in the Eastern Mediterranean and beyond.
Seventy years after the signing and the application of the Lausanne Peace Treaty, Mr. Yilmaz suddenly alleges that there are "gray areas" concerning Greek sovereignty over islets and rocks in the Aegean, which he, however, persistently refuses to define. The Turkish government has consistently rejected the pleas of the international community that it either abandon its groundless claims or take them for peaceful resolution to the International Court of Justice.
And now Turkey, in contravention of all rules of law and logic, raises claims against the Greek island of Gavdos, the legal status of which was already set in 1913, 10 years before the Lausanne Treaty.
Thus, Turkey renounced all sovereign rights over Crete, and Gavdos in this respect, under article 4 of the London Peace Treaty of 1913.
Furthermore, the Lausanne Peace Treaty of 1923 sets in the most specific way the Turkish frontiers in the area of the Eastern Mediterranean, from the Black Sea down to Persia.
As far as the Aegean Sea is concerned, the Treaty of Lausanne provides specifically that Turkish sovereignty is retained only over those islands that lie within 3 miles from the Turkish coast as well as to Imbros, Tenedos and Rabbit islands.
In the same Treaty Turkey, explicitly renounces all rights and titles over all territories and islands beyond the three-mile limit.
This legal regime in the Eastern Mediterranean has been applied and respected for over 70 years. Turkey's sudden attempts unilaterally to reject the validity of this regime constitute a real and imminent threat to the peace and stability of the entire region.