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Greek Islands Shown as Turkish in French Newspaper Provokes Complaint

Aegean Sea
French newspaper Le Monde was asked to remove a map that falsely depicted a number of Greek islands as being Turkish territories by the Greek ambassador in Paris. Credit: Norman Einstein / CC BY-SA 3.0 / Wikimedia Commons

Greece has issued a complaint to the popular French newspaper Le Monde for showing Greek islands on a map as being Turkish territories.

The map was published by Le Monde as part of a feature on the Turkish election results. However, the map misattributed a number of Greek islands as being a part of Turkey. The infographic cited Turkish state-run news agency Anadolu as its source.

The Greek ambassador in Paris contacted the publishers at Le Monde to lodge a complaint about the mistake. It is believed that the map has now been removed from Le Monde’s website.

French newspaper misidentifies Greek islands as belonging to Turkey

The map, published on Le Monde’s English website on Monday, depicted the Greek islands of Chios, Samos, Ikaria, Kos, Ios, Amorgos, and Rhodes as regions where the Turkish opposition candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu received the most votes in the election held on Sunday.

Based on information provided by two officials from the Greek foreign ministry, Greece’s ambassador to Paris, Dimitrios Zevelakis, composed a letter urging the publishers of the newspaper to eliminate the map.

After Greece issued the request, the French newspaper removed the offending map which cited the Turkish state-run news agency Anadolu as its source.

Tensions in the Aegean

Although Greece and Turkey are both NATO members, bilateral relations between Athens and Ankara have been extremely tense in recent years.

The disputes between Athens and Anakara consist of several complex overlapping issues. For one, neither side can agree on where the boundaries of their territorial waters and their exclusive economic zones (EEZs) lie.

This is complicated further by demands from Turkey for Greece to demilitarize several of its islands in the eastern Aegean. Greece refuses and instead argues that it has the right to a military presence on the islands, especially given the perceived risk of a Turkish invasion.

The frozen conflict in Cyprus adds yet another layer of disagreement, animosity, and distrust to Greek-Turkish bilateral relations, making the prospects for rapprochement even more difficult.

For these reasons, a simple mistake, such as the mislabelling of Greek islands as Turkish in a French newspaper, can bring about serious diplomatic consequences.

Nevertheless, there have been some hopes that Greece and Turkey can progress toward the normalization of relations over the past few months. A warming of relations has been observed since Greece’s disaster relief and humanitarian outreach to Turkey after the latter was struck by earthquakes in February.

Both countries are currently going through elections, with Greeks set to head to ballot boxes on Sunday and a second round of elections scheduled in Turkey on May 28. It remains to be seen whether an improvement in bilateral relations will follow after the elections.

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