By George Gilson
In the weeks preceding yesterday’s signing of the US-Greece Mutual Defence Cooperation Agreement (MDCA), the Greek government trumpeted its focus on a letter from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis that was in the making.
Athens’ objective was secure a phraseology that would underline in the clearest and most specific possible extent US respect for international law as regards the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Greece.
Without naming Turkey, such a letter would send a clear message to Ankara that the US will stand by Athens in confronting Ankara’s threat of war with Greece (if it were to exercise its right under international law to extend its territorial waters from six to 12nm) and in dealing with hostile acts by Turkey in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean, where the two countries came to the brink of a naval clash in July, 2020.
The government signalled that it put great stock in the letter and that it was in intense negotiations with the American side to secure the strongest possible wording.
In the final paragraph of the non-binding two-page letter, dated 12 October but released today, Blinken includes a statement of respect for sovereignty and international law in general, combined with a statement of the Biden administration’s dedication to “ensuring stability and prosperity throughout the Eastern Mediterranean”. He also underlines the need to respect international law of the sea, to which Greece constantly refers in defending its rights.
The specific references to the implementation of international law of the sea in the Eastern Mediterranean region, however, sends a clear measure to Ankara at a time when it is actively challenging and disputing Greece’s and Cyprus’ rights under international law in the region
He also stresses US support for Athens’ dialogue with its neighbours, referring to ongoing Greek-Turkish exploratory talks, thus underlining that Washington continues, as it has over the past decades, to view bilateral negotiations as the only way to definitively resolve differences.
US support for Greek-Turkish talks
“We greatly appreciate the Greek government’s steadfast commitment to dialogue with its neighbours and its adherence to resolving disputes peacefully through diplomacy and in accordance with international law. It is our longstanding belief that resource development in the Eastern Mediterranean should promote cooperation and provide a foundation for durable energy security throughout the region in accordance with international law. We also firmly believe in respecting sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as sovereign rights and jurisdiction in accordance with international law of the sea. The Biden administration is committed to ensuring stability and prosperity throughout the Eastern Mediterranean,” the last paragraph states.