Letter to The New York Times, January 16, 1998

Januray 16, 1998

The New York Times
229 West 43rd Street
New York, NY 10036-3959

To the Editor:

In his January 11th report "Turks Fear an Oil Disaster as the Bosporous Gets Busier", Stephen Kinzer reports that the Turkish Government is making overtures for greater control over traffic on the Bosporous, primarily for fear of an oil spill from a tanker collision. As Mr. Kinzer correctly points out, the Bosporous is an international waterway by treaty and Turkey may not unilaterally impose restrictions on passage through it.

Any restrictions on the volume or type of maritime traffic across the Bosporous must result from an international effort in accordance with the 1936 treaty, as Turkey does not have a monopoly of interests in this internationally protected waterway. This is underscored by the fact that Greece has even greater cause for concern about environmental disasters there than even the owners of the lavish mansions and villas that line the Bosporous. Greece’s Aegean Sea, the wellspring of two of its staple industries (tourism and fishing) would suffer far more damage if such a catastrophe were to occur, as the notoriously strong current of the Bosporous would gush any polluted waters into the Aegean leaving the Bosporous relatively unaffected.

Yet environmental concerns are not genuinely at issue here. The reality is that, as with Turkey’s occupation of Cyprus, Ankara’s violation of Hellas’ maritime territorial rights as recognized by the UN’s Law of the Sea treaty, its military incursions into Iraq in pursuit of Kurdish seperatists, and Turkey’s claims on Greek Aegean islands such as Gavdos and Imia, Turkey is once again seeking to contravene international law in pursuit of its expansionist agenda--a recurrent condition which is as much the fault of a permissive State Department and tolerant NATO as of the authoritarian militaristic tradition of the Turkish state.

Under the pretext of environmental concerns, Turkey is seeking to use the threat of restricting Russia’s access to its only warm water outlet to tip the balance in favor of building a pipeline through Turkey and not Russia--as any pipeline to the Black Sea would require the passage of tankers through the Bosporous. Rather than encourage these potentially dangerous overtures by Turkey, the West should intervene immediately and put to rest any such Ottoman machinations: the Bosporous is perhaps the single most important strategic area in Turkey, and any shifting in its control could result in extreme stresses on an already precarious geopolitical balance in a region of the world known for its explosiveness.

Very truly yours,

P. D. Spyropoulos, Esq.

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