The Delimitation of the Aegean Continental Shelf


The continental shelf (CS) dispute stems from the absence of a delimitation agreement effected between the two countries and it has a bearing on the overall equilibrium of rights and interests in the Aegean, as it concerns areas to be attributed to Türkiye and Greece beyond the 6 mile territorial sea.

The CS issue has in the past led to tensions between Türkiye and Greece.

Following scientific research activities undertaken by Türkiye in 1976, Greece has made recourse to both the United Nations Security Council and the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

On August 10, 1976, Greece addressed a communication to the President of the Security Council requesting an urgent meeting of the Council on the ground that "following recent repeated flagrant violations by Türkiye of the sovereign rights of Greece in the continental shelf in the Aegean, a dangerous situation has been created threatening international peace and security." On the same day, by unilateral application, Greece instituted proceedings in the ICJ against Türkiye in "a dispute concerning the delimitation of the continental shelf appertaining to Greece and Türkiye in the Aegean Sea, and concerning the respective legal rights of those States to explore and exploit the CS of the Aegean." Also on the same day Greece filed a request for interim measures of protection.

On August 25, 1976 Security Council, in its resolution 395(1976), called upon the parties "to resume direct negotiations over their differences" and appealed them "to do everything within their power to ensure that these (negotiations) result in mutually acceptable solutions." The Council, furthermore "invited Türkiye and Greece in this respect to continue to take into account the contribution that appropriate judicial means, in particular the ICJ, are qualified to make to the settlement of any remaining legal differences which they may identify in connection with their present dispute."

On September 11, 1976, the International Court of Justice rejected the Greek request for interim measures of protection. The Court also decided that areas beyond territorial waters, were in fact "areas in dispute".

Later, in 1978, the Court decided that it did not have jurisdiction to entertain the Greek application on the substance of the question.

In conformity with the Security Council decision, and in view of the Court's rejection of the Greek contention and claims, Türkiye and Greece signed an agreement in Bern on 11 November 1976. Under this Agreement, the parties decided to hold negotiations with a view to reaching an agreement on the delimitation of the continental shelf. They also undertook to refrain from any initiative or act concerning the Aegean continental shelf.

1976 Bern Agreement is still valid and its terms continue to be binding for both countries.