A week after the conclusion of the military operation Blue Homeland,Turkey has issued two new Navigational Telex (NAVTEX) with which announces the isolation of a maritime area located at the heart of the Aegean Sea for the conduct of new military drills with real munition for a long period. The NAVTEX effectively covers an area from the island of Skyros extending further east to the island of Chios. NAVTEX No. 351/19 secludes the area from 25-28 March and from 15 to 30 April. NAVTEX No. 1369/19 applies until 30 April.
The new NAVTEXes violate the goodwill of two sides by secluding the area even on Greece’s National Independence Day on 25th March and half of the Holy Week in Orthodox Easter. These NAVTEXes represent serious violations of the relevant moratorium established between the two contenders which halt military exercises in disputed areas during the days of national and religious commemorations and summertime.
More specifically, Ankara issued the new NAVTEX through its Izmir NAVTEX Station which nonetheless has no authority to issue new NAVTEXes within the Greek territorial waters and the Flight Information Region (FIR) of Athens – namely Greece’s national airspace. The two NAVTEXes are in essence repetition of last year’s NAVTEXes which effectively secluded the naval areas between Skyros, Euvoia and the island of Psara and the second one between Skyros and Agios Efstratios, best known as the Ai Stratis Island.
What is interesting to be seen is whether Ankara will ultimately deliver its threat issued from the Blue Homeland exercise to deploy at least 100 vessels in the Aegean Sea. We should also not forget at this stage that Ankara often precludes large naval areas through NAVTEXes but in the end the Turkish Navy never arrives at these areas.