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Turkey-Greece Earthquake Diplomacy (Case Study Sample)


A case study on diplomacy between Greece and turkey.


Greece and Turkey: Earthquake Diplomacy
The Greek-Turkish Earthquake diplomacy was a result of collective engagement after devastating earthquakes hit both states in 1999. The remarkable political and diplomatic efforts paved the way for improved relations between the states. Before this, hostility characterized their relations since Greece fought a violent battle to seek independence from the Ottoman Empire in the 1820s, and after the Republic of Turkey was formed, the Turks expelled the Greeks from Anatolia. Therefore, the earthquake diplomacy opened the doors to a new wave of bilateral relations between the states on governmental and non-governmental levels.
The catastrophic earthquakes that hit Izmir in Turkey and Athens in Greece in 1999 were a shocking reminder that the two rival states are situated in an area that is sensitive to many types of natural disasters. Firstly, the area is highly unstable and is one of the most seismically active regions in the world. Turkey is encircled by 3 major plates: African, Eurasian, and Arabian, and two minor plates: Aegean and Anatolian. The relative motion between the Eurasian and Arabian plates and the westward motion of the Anatolian block under this compressional plate motion is the primary reason for earthquakes in Turkey. Accordingly, 66% of the surface area of Turkey is situated on zone 1 and zone 2 levels of seismic hazard, and 71% population lives in these areas. As a result, earthquakes that have plagued the area killed 84,000 people, injured 200,000 and destroyed more than 500,000 buildings in Turkey.[Turkish Republic, Republic of Turkey, Country Report on Disaster Management,(Ankara, Turkey: Turkish Republic, 2008),]
Similarly, Greece invites seismic activity because of the interaction between 3 major plates: Eurasian, Aegean Sea, and African. The Aegean Sea Plate is constantly moving at approximately 30mm in a Southwestern motion against the Eurasia Plate which results in high seismic activity in Northern and central Greece. These activities have caused the death of more than 1100 people in Greece. However, the area between Turkey and Greece is also sensitive to other natural disasters such as storms, floods, wildfires, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions. Therefore, the need for earthquake diplomacy among the rival states emerged as a discourse in the following years as the neighboring states are at a hot point of seismic activities which can put human security and state security at a risk.[Sam Weston, "Plate Tectonics," Geography of Greece, September 15, 2014,] [Costas Makropoulos, Natural Disaster: Earthquakes and Protection Measures, (Greece: University of Athens, 2006),]
Despite the mutual looming threat of disasters, the relation between Greece and Turkey has been problematic. Historically, the clashes between them emerged when Greece nation fought a vigorous battle to seek independence from Ottoman rule in 1821. The differences grew further when Turks drove Greeks out of Anatolia after the creation of the Republic of Turkey in 1922. There were brief periods of co-operation with the signing of the Treaty of Neutrality, Conciliation, and Arbitration in 1930 to collectively work on solving disputes between the states and what procedures to adopt in case of failure of diplomatic efforts to solve an issue.[NevdnAsliToppare, "A Legal Approach to the Greek Turkish Continental Shelf Dispute at the Aegean Sea," (master's thesis, Bilkent University Ankara , 2006),]
However, the issue of Cyprus became a bone of contention between the states when Cyprus was granted independence in 1960. About 78% are Greek Cypriots and 18% are Turkish Cypriots. The majority of Greek Cypriots supported the political union of all Greeks living under Turkish rule within a sovereign Greek nation, while the Turkish Cypriots favored a partition of the island between Greece and Turkey. However, both states wanted control over the Island and came close to war numerous times by supporting different political agendas favoring their national interests. In 1974, the Greek military staged a coup against the Cypriot president Archbishop Makarios and in response, Turkey invaded the island to defend the Turkish minority. As a result of military skirmishes, the de facto division of the Island took place.[Sewell Chan, "Cyprus: Why One of the World’s Most Intractable Conflicts Continues," The New York Times, November 7, 2016, xx,]
Furthermore, the relations between the states deteriorated over the issue of delimitation of the continental shelf of Greek islands, limitations of Greek territorial waters, the extent of airspace, and the militarization of the Greek Islands in the eastern Aegean Sea. The situation turned critical when Turkey conducted ‘research’ on what Greek considered its part of the Aegean continental shelf. This expedition was interpreted as an attack on the sovereignty of Greece in the Aegean Sea.
The next crisis that erupted was over the question of sovereignty of two inhibited islets called Imia/Kardak. The Turkish cargo boat ‘FigenAkat’ traveled near an islet 2.5 miles off the coast of Kalolimnous, Greek island. Initially, the caption refused help from Greek authorities’ claiming that the incident occurred in Turkish territorial waters. Later the boat was escorted by Greek Salvage Company and the mayor of Kalymnos (Greek territory) raised a Greek flag on the rocks. However, the Turkish journalists replaced the Greek flag with the Turkish flag. In response, Greek sends its military troops on the Imia/Kardak rocks and claimed sovereignty. Turkish government protested and fleets of both states were at the brick of war when the US bickered a deal between the states and they ‘agreed to disagree’ over the status of these rocks.
The efforts of the EU to improve the relations between the two states by setting a condition for Turkey's inclusion in the organization was to develop better ties with Greece was in vain. Since Ankara saw it as an attempt to give concessions to its neighbor and it took an even harsher stand against Athens to convey that it will submit to the demands of the EU. In meanwhile, the issue of deployment of Russian S-300 missiles in Cyprus took a deadly turned in Turkish-Greek relations. Turkey states that it will not allow the deployment of missiles in Cyprus and it will take military action if necessary to prevent it. Eventually, after assessing the consequences of supporting the deployment of missiles in Cyprus, Greece suggested that missiles should be deployed in Crete to prevent further destabilization of relations between Greece and Turkey.
The period of peace was short-lived as the leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), Abdullah Ocalan was exiled from Syria due to Turkish military pressure and seeking asylum. He was invited to Greece by Greek sympathizers, yet the Greek government sends him to their embassy in Kenya realizing the sensitive situation at hand. The Turkish forces captured Abdullah Ocalan and accused Greece of sponsoring terrorism. In response, Greece accused Turkey of human rights violations against the Kurdish community. The relations between the two states collapsed not only on the diplomatic level but also on the domestic level. In Turkey, citizens held huge protests declaring Greece as their sworn enemy. Likewise, in Greece anti- Turkish feelings grew and Turkey was branded as a barbarian state. The relations between Greece and Turkey in the years were categorized by heightened tensions and mistrust.
The heightened tension between Turkey and Greece was eased when on August 17, 1999, at 3:02 am Turkey was hit with the most deadly earthquake centered on Golcuk and Arifiye areas in Adapazarı. The most severely affected area was Izmir; the earthquake experienced there reached 7.6 on the magnitude scale, lasted for 45 seconds, and had maximum Mercalli intensity of XI. 17, 127 people were killed and 43,959 were severely injured however, unofficial sources state that 45,000 people might have died. The destruction rendered 300,000 people homeless and the financial damage that occurred was around 3 billion dollars. The earthquake also affected Istanbul and the destruction was massive which caused more deaths and huge damages to buildings.[Vasile I. Marza, "On The Death Toll of the 1999 Izmir ( Turkey) Major Earthquake," The Brazilian National Council for Research and Technological Development (CNPq), April 2008, xx,]
Furthermore, the earthquake spared a fire at the Tupras, a petroleum refinery. The fire lasted for 5 days and caused huge destruction along with 17 tanks and uncalculated amounts of complex piping. If this wasn’t enough, the earthquake caused a tsunami in the sea of Marmora which was 2.5 m high. This tsunami led to the death of 155 more people.[Paula Dunbar, Tsunami Event, (National Centers for Environmental Information, 2013),,91,95,93&nd=disp...

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