Violations of national airspace and Infringements of Air Traffic Regulations (ICAO)
A violation of national airspace takes place when a foreign aircraft enters without permission (diplomatic clearance) into national airspace.
An infringement of air traffic regulations takes place whenever an aircraft disregards the internationally established flight rules within a Flight Information Region (FIR). Therefore, whenever an aircraft enters ATHINAI FIR without prior submission of a flight plan it infringes the air traffic regulations established by the competent Hellenic Air Traffic Services (ATS) authorities according to the relevant ICAO provisions and recommendations, as well as the international practice. The air traffic regulations aim at ensuring the safety of aviation within ATHINAI FIR.
Turkey, which for decades respected and complied with the air traffic regulations within ATHINAI FIR, ceased doing so since 1974 in the framework of an effort to promote a platform of political claims devoid of any legal basis against Greece, aiming at altering the status quo in the Aegean which has been firmly set out in the relevant international treaties and agreements and the rules of international law.
Hence, Turkey disregards the need for state aircraft to respect the ICAO rules and principles established for ensuring the safety of air navigation, which is the basic aim of ICAO, arguing that the 1944 Chicago Convention does not apply to state aircraft and deliberately ignoring the ICAO air traffic safety provisions and guidelines.
The co-ordination of air traffic, concerning both civil and military aircraft in international airspace, is absolutely necessary for the safety of air navigation and consists in the exchange of all the flight information within an FIR. In this respect the submission of a flight plan is the basic rule of ICAO and accomplishes the “due regard” that state aircraft are obliged to have for the safety of civilian air traffic according to article 3 (d) of the Chicago Convention.
In accordance with the Chicago Convention of 1944, ICAO has assigned to Greece the responsibility to provide Air Traffic Services within the Athinai FIR, the boundaries of which have been established by the relevant ICAO Regional Air Navigation Agreements of 1950, 1952 and 1958 and the ensuing ICAO Council Resolutions with the participation and the approval of Turkey.
Consequently the competent Greek Air Traffic Services authorities have been entrusted by ICAO the responsibility to ensure the safety of civil aviation within the Athinai FIR through the application of the established air traffic regulations.
Turkey’s subsequent refusal to respect the obligation of its military aircraft entering the Athinai FIR to submit flight plans disregards the need for civil-military co-ordination with the responsible Greek air traffic services authority as set out in the framework of ICAO for ensuring the safety of air navigation.
Since 1931 (with the Presidential Decree of 6/18 September 1931) Greece has established a territorial sea of 10 nautical miles for the purposes of aviation and the control thereof.
Turkey raised no objection at the time and for decades on (up until 1975) officially recognised and fully respected Greece’s national airspace in its entirety.
According to articles 1 & 2 of the 1944 Chicago Convention for International Civil Aviation and articles 2 & 3 of the 1982 International Convention on the Law of the Sea, the national airspace of a state is the airspace that extends over its land territory and its territorial waters. Therefore, Greek national airspace extends to 10 nautical miles as set out in the aforementioned Presidential Decree of 1931.
Since establishing the 10 nautical mile territorial sea for the purposes of aviation, Greece proceeded without delay to all the relevant necessary international notifications (publication on CINA maps, ICAO maps, Regional Air Navigation Plan of Europe, National Air Information Publication (AIP) etc).
It should be noted that, in the second edition of the air navigation ICAO maps, in 1955, new aeronautical maps, Greek as well Turkish ones, were incorporated, all depicting the outer limits of Greek air space of 10 nautical miles.
Greece established in 1936 (Law 230/1936) a territorial sea of six nautical miles without prejudice to other prevailing particular provisions, which provide for a territorial sea of greater or less extent than six nautical miles. This reservation was referring to the 1931 Decree establishing a territorial sea of 10 nautical miles for the purposes of aviation and the control thereof.
A general purpose territorial sea of 6 nautical miles is also provided for in Article 139 of Greece’s Code for Public Maritime Law (promulgated in 1973).
Greece, according to article 3 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Montego Bay 1982), which also reflects international customary law, has the right to extend her territorial sea to 12 nautical miles.
At the time of ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Greece stated that the time and way to exercise the right to extend her territorial sea shall be determined according to Greek national strategy, without this implying that Greece renounces these rights in any way.
Furthermore, Article 2 of the Greek Law 2321/1995 ratifying the U.N. Convention of the Law of the Sea stipulates that “Greece retains the inalienable right according to article 3 of the ratified Convention to extend at any time her territorial sea up to 12 nautical miles”.
Turkey, since 1995 with a unanimous resolution of the Turkish National Assembly (8/6/1995), threatens with war in case Greece extends her territorial sea (casus belli).
It should be noted that the right to extend the territorial sea to 12 nautical miles has already been exercised by the vast majority of the world’s coastal states, including Turkey which has extended her territorial sea to 12 nautical miles in the Black Sea and in the South-Eastern Mediterranean.
Between two neighbouring states the issue of maritime boundaries arises wherever the distance between their opposite or adjacent coasts is less than the sum of the extent of both states’ territorial waters.
In this respect, the maritime boundaries between Greece & Turkey have been established according to the provisions of international law, both conventional and customary. More particularly:
- In the Dodecanese islands the maritime boundary with Turkey has been set out in the relevant Agreement between Italy and Turkey concluded on January 4, 1932 and the ensuing Procès-Verbal signed between representatives of Italy and Turkey on December 28, 1932. Greece was the successor state in this agreement and the ensuing Procès-Verbal, on the basis of Article 14(1) of the 1947 Paris Peace Treaty (10th February), which ceded sovereignty of the Dodecanese islands from Italy to Greece.
- In Thrace the maritime boundary (3 nm from the Evros river estuaries) has been established by the 1923 Lausanne Peace Treaty and the 1926 Athens Protocol.
- For the Eastern Aegean islands (besides the Dodecanese) the rule of the median line/equidistance applies wherever the distance between Greek and Turkish opposite coasts is no greater than 12 nautical miles (which is the sum of the extent of both countries’ territorial waters).