Cablegate: Greece/Turkey: Fallout of Nato Decision Not To

DE RUEHTH #0678/01 1371318
O 161318Z MAY 08 ZDK CTG RUEHSD 0069W 1382242

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ATHENS 000678


E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/15/2018


Classified By: CDA Tom Countryman for 14 (b) and (d)


1. (C) We understand NATO authorities have informed Greek
military officials that NATO will not provide support for the
proposed May 20 "Noble Archer" exercise, which involved
overflight of Agios Efstratios island (but which had excluded
overflight of the island of Limnos, which has long been a
NATO no-go area due to its disputed status). Given the
recent (originating in 2000) and dubious nature of the
Turkish claim that Agios Efstratios is also "demilitarized,"
coupled with U.S. public statements affirming Greek
sovereignty over Agios Efstratios and questioning the Turkish
"demilitarized" claim, we can expect a strong reaction from
the Greeks, including:

-- Hope for and encouragement of a firm NATO response to the
Turkish threats to scramble fighter aircraft in response to a
planned exercise involving aircraft from another NATO Ally
operating under the control of NATO AWACs. There will be
deep disappointment should there be no consequences for
Turkey in response to such a threat;

-- An increase in the number of Greek policy elites who share
the popular perception that NATO is "anti-Greek," coupled
with heightened negative linkage of the United States with
NATO. The Greeks believe that application in this particular
case of NATO's regular policy not to involve itself in
disputes between Allies legitimizes the Turkish claim that
the status of Agios Efstratios (and by extension many other
Greek islands not explicitly addressed in past legal
instruments) is somehow in question;

-- A widely-held perception that this decision is partly in
retaliation for the Greek veto of Macedonia's NATO membership
and a potential hardening of the Greek position on Macedonia;

-- A reduction in Greek willingness to work within NATO
channels and with NATO authorities to address Aegean and
potentially other issues. The Greeks believe that they had
fully consulted with NATO civilian and military authorities
for 14 months as the U.S. had encouraged, had submitted plans
that met NATO's criteria, but that NATO had proven to be
unable to discern between legitimate legal disputes and
dubious claims.

-- More speculatively, this could affect Greek cooperation at
Souda Bay - a facility used by U.S. and NATO forces, and will
likely negatively affect political decisions by Greece
related to purchase of fighter aircraft. End Summary.

--------------------------------------------- ---
NATO Notifies Greece No Support for Noble Arche
--------------------------------------------- ---
aining event involves issues that are subject to disagreement
among member nations that the Alliance can neither adjudicate
or resolve, invoking NATO's long-standing practice of non
involvement." Following the March 2007 experience when NATO
withdrew support for a similar exercise that would also overfly
the island of Limnos which has long been on NATO's list of "no go"
areas because of Greek/Turkish disputes as to its demilitarized
status - the Greeks began a 14-month process of consulting
with NATO civilian and military authorities to develop an
exercise that would be acceptable to NATO but still overfly
AE. We understand that NATO SG de Hoop Scheffer recognized
the need for NATO to differentiate between legitimate legal
disputes and more dubious claims, including in discussions
with the Greek PermRep at NATO. The plans submitted by the
Greeks to NATO (e-mailed to EUR/RPM, EUR/SE, and Embassy
Ankara 5/5/08) avoided the Limnos area, and were submitted in
accordance with specific policy guidance from NATO
authorities for planned exercises in the Aegean.

Greek Reaction

3. (C) We expect a strong reaction from the Greeks resulting
from the NATO decision, including:

-- Interest in Consequences for Turkey: The Greeks will
follow closely the question of whether or how NATO might
respond to Turkish threats related to planning for "Noble
Archer 2008;" they are likely aware that Turkey mooted the
possibility of scrambling fighter aircraft to intercept the
Greek aircraft training under "Noble Archer 2008," which -
according to the submitted plans - would have been operating
with support from NATO AWACs. Should there be no
consequences for Turkey in response to such a threat, we
cannot rule out the Greeks employing it in response to future
Turkish plans for exercises that include NATO assets.

-- Anti-NATO and Anti-U.S. Feeling: Although the Greek
public is instinctively suspicious of NATO and equates NATO
with the U.S., among policy elites there are more informed
and nuanced views. However, the NATO decision not to support
this exercise will certainly be major news in coming days.
The Greeks believe that application in this particular case
of NATO's regular policy not to involve itself in disputes
between Allies legitimizes the Turkish claim that the status
of Agios Efstratios (and by extension many other Greek
islands not explicitly addressed in past legal instruments)
is somehow in question. We anticipate an up-tick in public
perceptions that NATO is "anti-Greek," and that the U.S. does
not support Greek interests or take seriously Greek concerns.
Furthermore, although we will reiterate U.S. views on AE's
status, drawing on U/S Burns' remarks (para 5 below), and
make clear that questions of whether NATO can support
training exercises is a NATO matter to be taken up with NATO
authorities, we will not be able to avoid the Greek
government and media wanting to take the issue up with the
U.S. and not/not with NATO.

-- Macedonia: Although this NATO decision has no
relationship with Greece's decision to block a NATO
invitation to Macedonia, the Greek government and public is
likely to see this as pay-back. We will do our utmost to
challenge this perception, but a hardening of the Greek
position on Macedonia is a likely consequence.

-- Working with NATO: We have long encouraged Greece to play
a more active and constructive role at NATO. Indeed one of
Embassy Athens' highest policy goals is to see Greece move
from a passive Ally to an active and constructive player at
NATO. We expect the Greeks to be less willing to work with
NATO authorities and within NATO channels to address Aegean
issues, and potentially on other issues, given their
perception that they worked with NATO civilian and military
authorities for 14 months ) as we had encouraged ) and
developed plans for an exercise that would meet NATO's

-- Other Cooperation: More speculatively, a NATO-skeptic
public could raise further questions about supporting U.S.
and NATO operations from Souda Bay, Crete, potentially
complicating operations there. This dynamic could also
affect political decisions by Greece related to the purchase
of the next generation of fighter aircraft.

Background ) Recent and Dubious Claim on AE

4. (U) The Turks and Greeks have long disagreed about the
status of certain islands in the Aegean, arising from
differing interpretations of the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne and
the 1923 Lausanne Conference "Straits Convention,"
disagreement on whether/how the 1936 Montreux Convention
revisited the demilitarization provisions of the "Straits
Convention," and concerns with implementation of the
"demilitarization" provisions of the 1947 Treaty of Paris.
These disputes are long-standing. However, the question of
the status of the island of Agios Efstratios (AE) is
different, as it is not referred to in any of these legal
instruments. It had long been held to be Greek sovereign
territory with the same status as the rest of Greek
territory, i.e. with no demilitarized status. This all
changed when Turkey raised questions related to AE's status
in the year 2000 as part of the planning and conduct of a
NATO exercise, "Destined Glory 20." At that time TurkeQis issue,
although a few Greek aircraft overflew Agios Efstratios
during the conduct of the "Destined Glory" exercise, followed
by Turkish objections.

Cancellation of Noble Archer 2007

5. (U) In 2007, Greece sought NATO support for a training
exercise "Noble Archer," but included in its plans
overflights of the island of Limnos. After review, NATO did
not support the exercise, as Limnos has long been the subject
of a Greek/Turkish dispute (Greece claims that the Montreux
Convention amended Lausanne provisions allowing Greece to
"remilitarize" Limnos and Turkey has long challenged this
claim), and NATO policy has long been to avoid exercises
related to Limnos. However, following cancellation of the
exercise, the Greeks expressed concern that its cancellation
could be construed also to support the more recent Turkish
claims related to AE. In response to a request from Greek
officials to affirm the U.S. view of Agios Efstratios' status
then-Under Secretary Burns stated publicly on March 25, 2007:

"It's obviously a very sensitive matter that it is a Greek
island. There is no question about that. Our clear
impression is that it is not demilitarized. Our stance is
that this is an issue now for NATO to try to see if there can
be an arrangement made to proceed with these military
exercise and work out any differences that may or may not be
there, because it is very important for NATO to be able to
exercise and to be able to be present in all parts of NATO
territory and the Eastern Aegean Sea as well."


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