Turkey finds 'Blue Homeland' in the waters of the Mediterranean

What the new political doctrine of the Republic of Turkey is

The foreign policy of the Republic of Turkey has undergone very serious changes over the past four years. The country has moved from the doctrines of “Zero problems with neighbours” and “Strategic depth”, the architect of which was the then foreign minister and prime minister and now the leader of the newly founded Future Party, Ahmet Davutoglu, on the track of the new Blue Homeland doctrine. Columnist for our publication Bulat Nogmanov explains what this concept is.

What is the size of Turkey's “Blue Homeland”?

The idea of Blue Homeland was outlined by Admiral Cem Gürdeniz in 2006 and was refined to the level of state doctrine by another Admiral Jihad Yaji, who now heads the Centre for Maritime and Global Strategies at the Bahcesehir University.

The essence of the doctrine is that the continental shelf and the water area of Turkey are as important for the state as the land part of it. Or as the architect of the doctrine, Admiral Yaji, put it: “We cannot cede a drop of water of our homeland to others, just as we cannot cede a handful of our land.” That is, the water part of the homeland is as sacred as the land part. And most importantly, Turkey is ready to promote and protect its interests both on land and at sea.

In practice, the doctrine resulted in a scientific study conducted by Yaji himself, which, based on the provisions of international maritime law, established that the total area of the “Blue Homeland” of Turkey, including the continental shelf, the water surface and the water area on the three seas surrounding the country (Black, Aegean and Mediterranean), is 462,000 square kilometres. This statement, which signifies the intensification of Turkish activities in the maritime direction, certainly caused a wave of indignation among Turkey's “frenemies” and NATO partners.

It should be understood that the Blue Homeland doctrine is not just a document wandering from one government office to another. With this doctrine, Turkey clearly defines its claim to be a strong maritime power. On the other hand, there is a re-evaluation of the principles on which the country's foreign and domestic policy is based. For example, now in Turkey there is a clear understanding that until today all maritime activities of the country were carried out by a modest directorate under the ministry of transport, there was no clear maritime policy. Thanks to the doctrine, all these activities, from fishing and shipping to naval policy, began to take on a structured and logical form that meets the interests of the country. Besides, it is the doctrine that gives the opportunity to build a balanced and pragmatic relationship with the countries of the region, based not only on cultural and religious similarities, as it was before, but on the real interests of the country. An example here is the recent Libyan-Turkish agreement on the maritime border between the two countries, as well as the development of relations with Egypt in this direction.

Turkey has already started implementing the doctrine

A clear demonstration of that the doctrine is quite serious and Turkey will use all the political, diplomatic and power tools in this direction was the naval exercises held in March 2019, which just received the symbolic name “Blue homeland”. These have been the largest naval exercise in the history of Turkey since the founding of the republic. The exercises were held in three seas at once: the Black Sea, the Aegean Sea and the Mediterranean Sea, and the entire naval and air fleet of the country was involved in them. The symbolism of the name and the scale of what is happening was aimed at making it clear to the countries of the region that Turkey is ready to play a significant role in the fate of the region and, if necessary, protect its interests with military force.

Many of Turkey's partners and allies in the West have perceived the Blue Homeland doctrine as belligerent and expansionist. Even such voices were heard as “the time of diplomacy is over, and Turkey will now solve crises by military means”. Although Turkey throughout its history has resorted to a military solution to the issue outside its borders only in extreme cases, as was the case, for example, during the Cyprus crisis of 1974.

By the way, the Blue Homeland doctrine has some connection with Cyprus, but in a slightly different context. The thing is that in 2004, Cyprus, as a single state, was admitted to the European Union, and in the same year there was a so-called “Seville Map”, developed at the University of Seville, according to which exclusive economic zones were defined for the countries of the Mediterranean region. By a “random” coincidence, on this map it turned out that Turkey was assigned literally microscopic economic zones, while Greece and Cyprus received huge water territories.

This caused a protest from Turkey, and the European Union hastened to disown the Seville Card, saying that it has no legal force and is not accepted by the European Union. However, in fact, for some reason, all EU authorities in relation to Turkey are guided by the Seville Map, ranging from shipping and fishing to seismic exploration on the shelf of the Eastern Mediterranean. It is not surprising that Cyprus immediately took the Seville Map seriously and on its basis declared its exclusive economic zone in the Mediterranean Sea, and this point it is still one of the stumbling blocks on Turkey's path to the European Union.

According to Cem Gyurdeniz's statements to the Air Force, all the coup attempts in Turkey in the twenty-first century, from the Ergenekon case to Operation Sledgehammer and Operation FETO, were aimed at diverting Turkey from the Eastern Mediterranean and the south-east of the country. That is, in fact, it was planned to deprive Turkey of the exclusive economic zone on the sea and cut off a piece in the southeast, creating Kurdish autonomy there. In this regard, we can assume that the Blue Homeland doctrine has become a kind of response to attempts to infringe on the rights and interests of Turkey. It is also noteworthy that Admiral Gyurdeniz was arrested in 2011 on false charges of participating in Operation Sledgehammer and sentenced to 18 years, but after 3 years he was acquitted and released.

Summarizing all the above, we can say that the future of Turkey is in the seas, as it is not only a source of food in the form of fishing, but also a source of energy. The seismic exploration conducted by Turkish vessels within the framework of the Blue Homeland doctrine has already shown that there are huge reserves of natural gas on the Black Sea and Mediterranean shelves, the production of which can significantly change the position of Turkey in the modern world.

By Bulat Nogmanov