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AHI Hosts Noon Forum on “Aegean Sea Treaty Regimes and U.S. Law” with AHI Legal Counsel Nicholas Karambelas
May 16, 2006—No. 45 (202) 785-8430

AHI Hosts Noon Forum on “Aegean Sea Treaty Regimes and U.S. Law” with AHI Legal Counsel Nicholas Karambelas

WASHINGTON, DC—On April 25, 2006, AHI hosted a Noon Forum at the Hellenic House with Nicholas Karambelas, AHI Legal Counsel and Attorney at Law, Sfikas & Karambelas, L.L.P. The discussion was on “Aegean Sea Treaty Regimes and U.S. Law.”

In his presentation Mr. Karambelas highlighted the following:

Greece obtained its legal title to and sovereignty over the land and waters of the Aegean Sea, not through military conquest or some vague historical claim, but through the Treaties. Under international law, legal title to territory that is obtained through treaty has been deemed the strongest form of legal title. The Treaty Regimes that govern the Northern Islands and the Dodecanese, respectively, differ from one another. The Treaty of Lausanne contains the boundary regime for the Northern Islands of the Aegean Sea. The Treaty of Paris contains the boundary regime for the Dodecanese.

A. The Northern Islands and the Treaty of Lausanne

Between 1878 and 1913 Greece seized the islands of Limnos, Lesbos, Chios, Samos & Ikaria from the declining Ottoman Empire through a series of military actions premised primarily on the existence of substantial Greek populations on those islands. By 1913, Greece exercisedde facto control over these islands. However, Greece did not have legal title to the islands because it came to possess the islands through military conquest. The Treaty of Lausanne ended the First World War in the east and as well as the post-War hostilities between Greece and the newly-formed Republic of Turkey. The Treaty of Lausanne granted legal title to Greece over to the islands over which Greece had exercised de facto control for about 10 years. In deciding small islands and islets located around the Northern Islands were to be under Greek sovereignty and which of those small islands and islets were to be under Turkish sovereignty, the drafters of the Treaty simply confirmed the situation that had existed for the preceding 10 years. Rather than draw a geometric maritime boundary, the drafters simply declared that islands that were less than 3 miles from the “Asiatic coast”shall be under Turkish sovereignty. The 3-mile area is measured from the coastline and not from any coastal islands.

B. The Dodecanese and the Treaty of Paris

Unlike the Northern islands, Greece never had exercised either de facto control or sovereignty over the Dodecanese in modern times. Italy took de facto control of the Dodecanese from the Ottoman Empire in 1912 following a short armed conflict referred to in history as the Italo-Turkish War. During negotiations for the Treaty of Lausanne, Greece actively sought possession of the Dodecanese based on the existence of a substantial Greek majority in the population of those islands. In 1920, the Senate of the United States passed a resolution calling on the peace conference to award the Dodecanese to Greece. However, Italy rather than Greece was ultimately granted legal title to the Dodecanese in the final version of Treaty of Lausanne. The Dodecanese remained under Italian sovereignty until they were ceded to Greece by Italy under the Treaty of Paris, which ended the Second World War between the Allies and Italy. The United States is a party to the Treaty of Paris.

Turkey apparently raises three legal issues with respect to the Treaty Regimes: (1) Greece obtained sovereignty only over those islands specifically named in the Treaties, (2) The maritime boundary between the Dodecanese Islands and Turkey is not legally binding because the instrument setting that boundary was not registered as required by the League of Nations (3) because Greece militarized the Northern Islands and the Dodecanese in violation of the de-militarization provisions of the Treaties Turkey may suspend or terminate the Treaties.

Turkey has asserted that the Treaty Regimes are dated and do not reflect current circumstances so that the Treaty Regimes should be discarded and the issues resolved through bilateral negotiations. Greece responds that the Treaty Regimes have been in effect for decades and are settled international law so that if Turkey disagrees with the legal effect Treaty Regimes, it should submit its complaints to the International Court of Justice.

American policymakers must recognize that the United States has a legal obligation and a legal duty to preserve and perpetuate the integrity and stability of the Treaty Regimes as well as a substantial national interest. If the Treaty Regimes in the Aegean can be ignored or undermined by anachronistic and tactical legal arguments, then any one of the many treaty regimes that establish maritime boundaries to which the United States is a party can also be ignored or undermined. Moreover, because the United States is a signatory to the Treaty of Paris of 1947, that Treaty Regime is American law. Ultimately, as long as Turkey continues to challenge the Treaty Regimes other issues involving the Aegean such as the intercontinental shelf and the flight information region cannot be resolved.


Nicholas G. Karambelas is a founding partner of Sfikas & Karambelas, LLP with offices in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Maryland, New York City, New York and affiliated offices in Montreal Canada and Athens, Greece. Admitted to the bar in 1980, he practices in the areas of business entity organization, international law and business transactions, e-commerce, securities, franchising and appellate litigation. Mr. Karambelas has written numerous articles on corporate, commercial and transactional law. He has authored a three-volume treatise entitled “Limited Liability Companies: Law, Practice and Forms” published in its second edition by Thomson West Company and is writing a treatise on international business transactions to be published by Thomson West Company in the fall of 2006. He participated in the drafting of the District of Columbia Limited Liability Company Act of 1994 and drafted the Limited Liability Company Amendment Act of 2000. He served as special counsel the Committee on Government Operations of the U.S. House of Representatives. He is admitted to practice law in New York, Washington, D.C., Maryland, the federal courts and the Supreme Court of United States.

Mr. Karambelas holds a Bachelor of Arts from Union College, a Juris Doctor from Fordham University School of Law and a Master of International Affairs (M.I.A.) from Columbia University School of Public and International Affairs. He was elected Secretary of the D.C. Bar for 2004-2005. He served as Co-Chair of the Continuing Legal Education (CLE) Committee of the D.C. Bar and teaches numerous CLE courses. He is an arbitrator for the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. Mr. Karambelas chairs the American Hellenic Lawyers’ Society of Greater Washington, D.C. He is a member of the Advisory Board of the American Hellenic Institute. He is also a Trustee of the Edmund Burke School in Washington, D.C.

Dated: April 20, 2006

Attached please find a photograph from this event.


For additional information, please contact Georgia Economou at (202) 785-8430 or For general information regarding the activities of AHI, please view our Web site at