The Italy part of the first leg of “Turkey Talks” webinar series titled “Turkey’s Vision of Equality and Cooperation in the Eastern Mediterranean” organized by the Directorate of Communications was streamed online.
Turkey’s Ambassador to Rome Murat Salim Esenli, Italy's former Ambassador to Ankara Carlo Marsili, Italian author Assoc. Prof. Valeria Giannotta and Director General for Bilateral Political, Maritime-Aviation and Border Affairs, Ambassador Çağatay Erciyes attended the panel that was conducted via video-conference and moderated by Assoc. Prof. Murat Yeşiltaş.
Ambassador Esenli stated that whenever an issue was raised in Europe about Turkey, the background of the issue was neglected and it was often approached as if it was something new, and all negative aspects were attributed to Turkey.
Pointing out that “The relations between Italy and Turkey date back to centuries ago. Moreover, Italy has a certain level of experience in maritime issues. Therefore, I’m extremely pleased to see the constructive approach of Italy towards the developments in Eastern Mediterranean”, Esenli said that they expected Italy to maintain this position.
Underlining that the issue of exclusive economic zone (EEZ) delimitation agreement which was signed between Greece and Italy on 7th of June 2020 was raised after long years, Esenli said, “Greece intended to accelerate the signing of this agreement due to the situation experienced with Turkey. The elements accepted by Greece within the scope of this agreement overlap substantially with international principles of law and jurisprudence defended by Turkey for years”.
Expressing that the European Union (EU) should play a constructive role, Esenli stressed that Turkey was ready for dialogue and negotiation without preconditions.
“The interests of Turkey and Italy are compatible in Libya issue”
Italy's former Ambassador to Ankara Carlo Marsili said, “Turkey is heavily criticised due to the ambitious policy followed in Libya and the Eastern Mediterranean. Are these criticisms right or wrong? What’s important to me is to understand the reasoning behind this policy”.
Indicating that the interests of Turkey and Italy were compatible regarding the Libya issue, Marsili said that these two countries should work for deepening their cooperation.
Underlining that the situation in Eastern Mediterranean was complicated and some things needed clear understanding, Marsili said, “It is impossible for Turkey, not just for this Turkish government but for any Turkish government, to accept the Greek position according to which the delimitation of the exclusive economic zone starts from Aegean islands, and that means Turkey could not conduct any activity. Therefore, this is frankly not acceptable.”
“Greece has militarized in the last years the Dodecanese islands in violation of the Italian-Greek Treaty of Paris of 1947,” Marsili noted.
Indicating that it was a “big mistake” to let Cyprus become a member to the European Union before settling the Cyprus issue, Marsili said that he often raised this issue in 2004 when he served in Ankara.
Marsili expressed that NATO could play a more impartial role rather than the European Union in interventions intended for the solution of the problem since Greece and Greek Cypriot Administration of Southern Cyprus were EU members and the EU had a certain stance on the issue.
“The main problem is rotating around the Cyprus issue”
Indicating that the Cyprus issue lied at the root of the problems in the Eastern Mediterranean, Giannotta said, “A historical mistake, which was done with the full accession of Cyprus as a full member into EU without finding resolutions to the separation of the island, created a deadlock not only in Turkey’s European Union accession process but also on the content of the relationship between Turkey and some European countries. When the energy sources were discovered around the island, the dispute started to increase and it became wider and wider.”
Underlining that Greece, the Greek Cypriot Administration of Southern Cyprus as well as Israel, Egypt and some European Countries adopted a policy of isolating Turkey, and Turkey responded to that policy with the position it adopted in Libya and the Eastern Mediterranean, Giannotta said that Turkey would not accept that isolation policy and continued as follows:
“I got disappointed when I read one statement after the last 10th of September meeting in Corsica that was chaired by the French President Macron. Macron said Turkey was no longer a partner in this region and this is a sign of deep blindness and bias approach according to me because Turkey is a Mediterranean country so it has a huge role and interests in the Mediterranean region”.
Giannotta noted that in order to achieve so-called “Pax Mediterranea” raised in the agenda of Med 7 Summit, efforts should be exerted to resolve the issues with Turkey based on the win-win negotiation process.
“As Turkey, we adopted a stance which is always in favour of dialogue in conformity with the international law”
Indicating that the maritime boundary delimitation issue was more complicated in the Eastern Mediterranean, in a semi-enclosed sea, which has already political problems such as the unresolved Cyprus issue for long years, Ambassador Çağatay Erciyes stated, “There are already some problems with Greece in the Aegean Sea and now East-Med issue is added on top of it. As Turkey, we have always adopted a position which is in favour of dialogue in the region in conformity with the international law”.
Mentioning that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan made an offer to Prime Minister of Greece Kiryakos Miçotakis in two occasions regarding the Eastern Mediterranean, Erciyes noted the following:
“Greece did not give a positive reply to our calls. Greece, instead of talking to Turkey, tries to abuse their EU membership to impose their maximalist maritime boundary claims to Turkey. But this is not a productive approach and the Greeks take hostage of the EU-Turkey relations in return. This is not the right approach. Turkey’s position is that we are ready to talk to Greece without any preconditions. If they come up with some preconditions, we can come up with many preconditions as well but this is not the right way.
Ambassador Erciyes pointed out that the EU has never taken a side in maritime boundary delimitation issues between Spain and Morocco or Spain and Algeria. Erciyes also stated that the EU took a stand against Turkey within the scope of developments in the Eastern Mediterranean by acting as a court although it does not have any authority regarding maritime boundary delimitation.
Erciyes noted that political organizations such as EastMed Gas Forum, which were established to isolate Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots would fail and stressed that Turkey was the country with the longest coastal front in the Eastern Mediterranean.
In response to a question, Çağatay Erciyes stated that they do not accept the criticisms that maritime boundary delimitation agreement signed between Turkey and Libya in November 2019 led to problems in the Eastern Mediterranean. He indicated that Greece had maximalist claims regarding the maritime boundary with Libya as well, and the memorandum of understanding was signed between Turkey and Libya so as to protect the rights of those two countries in their continental shelves.