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The Symposium on Free and Open Seas Convened

The Symposium on Free and Open Seas convened on March 20, 2024, marking a collaboration with the esteemed Japanese Embassy to commemorate the centennial milestone of diplomatic relations between Türkiye and Japan. Hosted at the Mahmut Esat Bozkurt Hall within the Ankara University Faculty of Law, the event attracted a distinguished gathering.

The inaugural discourse was graced by the presence of DEHUKAM CEO Mustafa Başkara, alongside His Excellency Takahiko Katsumata, Ambassador of Japan to Ankara, and Ambassador Burak Özügergin, Director-General of Maritime-Aviation-Border Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Türkiye.

Among the attendees, Rectors, Ambassadors, scholars, representatives of foreign missions, and students engaged in riveting discussions revolving around pivotal Law of the Sea themes. Topics ranged from the freedom of navigation to the complexities of exclusive economic zones and the intricate interplay between naval warfare law and the law of the sea.

DEHUKAM CEO Mustafa Başkara took a moment to reflect on the significant milestone of the 100th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Türkiye and Japan, eloquently underscoring the historical significance of seas in nurturing trade, cultural interchange, and societal bonds. Stressing the strategic importance of free and open seas for both Türkiye and Japan, Başkara highlighted the crucial role of geographical positioning. It was also emphasized that this symposium not only served as a commemorative event but also as a pivotal platform to accentuate the importance of maritime issues and pave the way for future collaborations and solutions.

Ambassador Katsumata shed light on the indispensable reliance of both Japan and Türkiye on maritime transportation for trade, emphasizing the imperatives of maritime security and the preservation of invaluable resources resting within the continental shelf. Underlining Japan’s commitment to a “free, open, and stable ocean” underpinned by the rule of law. H.E. Ambassador pledged concerted efforts to ensure safe maritime transport and security in tandem with the international community.

Ambassador Özügergin, recognizing the geographical expanse separating the two nations, affirmed that this divergence does not obscure shared perspectives on maritime concerns. At the core of oceanic deliberations lies the fundamental question of ownership, be it universal or exclusive to coastal nations, underscoring the evolving quest for freedom of navigation. Moreover, Özügergin emphasized the intrinsic correlation between addressing humanitarian crises and safeguarding freedom of navigation, reaffirming Türkiye’s unwavering dedication to championing and fostering this indispensable freedom.

Subsequent to the opening remarks, the panel moderated by Prof. Dr. İsmail Demir, Member of Board of Directors of DEHUKAM, featured illuminating discussions from panelists such as Prof. Dr. Yücel Acer, Prof. Dr. Çağrı Erhan, Assoc. Prof. Seta Makoto, and Mr. Kohei Imai.

Prof. Dr. Acer elucidated how international law of the sea delineates the rights and responsibilities of nations at sea, stressing the paramount importance of preserving freedom of the seas to foster global cooperation.

Prof. Dr. Erhan underscored the strategic significance of the Mediterranean as a nexus of commerce and culture, emphasizing its role in uniting diverse civilizations.

Assoc. Prof. Seta reminded attendees of the International Maritime Organization’s objective to prevent discrimination at sea, affirming that during peacetime, the principles of free and open seas are enshrined in international law.

Mr. Imai elaborated on Japan’s “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” strategy, elucidating its dual focus on normative principles and resilience against external pressures.

In the closing remarks, delivered by Prof. Dr. Necdet Ünüvar, the Rector of Ankara University, the substantial contribution that DEHUKAM’s internationally renowned and meticulously curated programs have provided to the academia were underscored. Expressing his delight in recognizing once again the significance of the centenary milestone marking the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Türkiye, he conveyed his conviction that the enduring collaboration and friendship between the two nations will further solidify in the future. Additionally, he extended his congratulations to DEHUKAM, emphasizing that such international initiatives play a pivotal role in enhancing academic knowledge exchange, cultural interaction, and fostering bonds of friendship.

Throughout the symposium, participants embarked on a profound exploration of how the principle of open seas permeates various facets of international law of the sea, exchanging experiences and charting common pathways for the future.

We extend our heartfelt appreciation to all attendees for their invaluable contributions to this Symposium.