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ANKARA: A Job For Joe Biden: A Turkish-Greek Boundary Deal

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  • ANKARA: A Job For Joe Biden: A Turkish-Greek Boundary Deal


    Nov 20 2008

    We have a nominee for an early bit of Turkish business for the incoming
    administration of Barack Obama and his No. 2, the world-savvy Joseph

    No, not Biden's old screwball idea to divide Iraq into
    conveniently-sized ethnic "statelets." And no, not that hardy
    perennial, the "genocide resolution" that could only derail the new
    thaw in Turkish-Armenian relations. Biden should move on the "Law of
    the Sea," a rather weighty set of rules to set maritime boundaries
    produced by the United Nations nearly 40 years ago and yet to be
    ratified by either the United States or Turkey.

    Maritime rules are complex. They are particularly complex when the
    issue is an archipelago such as the sets of islands governed by the
    Philippines, Indonesia or Greece. Just where the boundary is -- or
    should be -- is an issue that has brought Turkey and Greece close
    to war repeatedly. Thankfully, cool heads have prevailed in recent
    years and we are sure this will continue.

    But a Norwegian ship prospecting for oil under Turkish contract
    near the Greek island of Meis has, in recent days, again triggered
    angry diplomatic missives between the two countries. Let us be clear
    about what is involved. Meis is a pleasant little island. A good
    swimmer can get there from the Turkish town of KaÅ~_ in about 45
    minutes. By boat it takes five. The islanders and KaÅ~_ townsfolk
    all know one another. The lack of a customs facility, for example,
    does not prevent most of the island's 200-odd souls from making their
    way every Thursday to the open air market in KaÅ~_. Technically it
    is illegal but nobody seems to mind. For the people of Meis and KaÅ~_
    have been trading for centuries.

    It is long past time that Turkey and Greece hammer out reasonable
    rules. The best forum for this would be the arbitration mechanism of
    the United Nations as outlined in the Law of the Sea. It has worked
    in recent years for Barbados and Trinidad as it has for Suriname
    and Guyana. Except Turkey does not recognize the authority of this
    body. And why should Turkey, when the nation with the world's seventh
    longest coastline still shuns the deal?

    This is where Biden comes in. As chairman of the Senate Foreign
    Relations Committee, Biden last year promised he would move this
    document through his committee and finally get it ratified by the full
    Senate. An election campaign got in the way. But now, he is soon to
    be vice president, a job he was tapped for because of international
    expertise. This is an even better post to finally wrap up this bit
    of unfinished business. While at it, Biden could also demonstrate
    the Obama Administration's leadership in our part of the world and
    help resolve one of the last remaining antagonisms between Greece
    and Turkey.