Foundations of Turkish Claims in the Eastern Mediterranean

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The Eastern Mediterranean is becoming a new region of interstate confrontation and clash of national interests. This is largely due to the discovery of oil and gas reserves, the development of which is becoming possible with the existing technology. The Republic of Turkey has a special position regarding this maritime region. The paper analyzes those bases - historical, political and legal - that determine Turkey’s current policy with regard to maritime delimitation and the settlement of maritime disputes in the Eastern Mediterranean. Particularly, it is shown that Turkey’s policy in the region continues to be based on the approaches that were announced by Turkey during the I-III UN Conferences on the Law of the Sea (1958, 1960, 1973-1982 respectively), which have remained unchanged up to now. This position, as regards both the outer limits of the territorial sea, the legal regime of islands and the delimitation of the continental shelf, continues to define the essence of the controversy between Turkey and other countries of the region, including Greece and the Republic of Cyprus. At the same time, it is shown that there is a set of circumstances that significantly limit the prospects of solving these interstate contradictions within the framework of international judicial instances, including the International Court of Justice and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. The conclusion is made that, for both Turkey and Greece, the most acceptable option would be to work out a “model” of settlement, which would not imply the obligation of its immediate implementation. Particular attention is paid to the ideological and practical framing of Turkish claims within the framework of the “Blue Homeland” doctrine, developed by a number of retired Turkish officers. It shows how Ankara uses the ideas of pan-Turkism and neo-Ottomanism to justify its claims to vast maritime spaces. The distinctive feature of this doctrine most likely is its anti-American, anti-NATO and anti-European orientation. There is a paradoxical situation when certain ideas enshrined in this concept directly correlate with the interests of the Russian Federation.

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Fig. 1. Turkey’s maritime claims under “Mavi Vatan” doctrine
Source: Mavi Vatan. URL: (accessed: 15.03.2021).

Fig. 2. The delimitation line between Turkey and Libya under 2019 Memorandum
Source: Full text of Turkey-Libya maritime agreement revealed. URL: (accessed: 15.03.2021).


Fig. 3. Turkey’s outer limits of the continental shelf presented to the UN
Source: Letter dated 24 April 2020 from the Permanent Representative of Cyprus to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General. URL: (accessed: 10.02.2021).


About the authors

Pavel Andreevich Gudev

Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences

Author for correspondence.
ORCID iD: 0000-0002-2951-6313

PhD in History, Leading Research Fellow

Moscow, Russian Federation


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Supplementary files

Supplementary Files
1. Fig. 1. Turkey’s maritime claims under “Mavi Vatan” doctrine

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2. Fig. 2. The delimitation line between Turkey and Libya under 2019 Memorandum

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3. Fig. 3. Turkey’s outer limits of the continental shelf presented to the UN

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Copyright (c) 2021 Gudev P.A.

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