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Turkey Warns Greece on Extending Territorial Waters in the Aegean

Greek flag at Oia, Santorini. Credit: Matt Artz/Unsplash

Turkey warned Greece on Wednesday not to extend its territorial waters in the Aegean out to 12 nautical miles.

Ankara’s warning came after the Parliament in Athens voted overwhelmingly to ratify a bill extending Greek territorial waters in the Ionian Sea.

“Turkey has vital rights and interests in the semi-enclosed Aegean Sea, where special geographical circumstances prevail,” Turkey’s foreign affairs’ ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said.

He added that “the territorial waters in the Aegean Sea should not be unilaterally extended in a way to restrict the freedom of navigation as well as the access to the high seas of both Turkey and third countries.”

Overwhelming support

The bill in the Greek Parliament received 284 votes of approval. The Greek Communist Party, however, merely declared itself “present” in the proceedings, which does not count as a vote of rejection.

The full title of the bill is “Determination of the extent of the coastal zone in the Ionian Sea region and the Ionian Islands up to Cape Tainaro in the Peloponnese.”

The bill will extend Greece’s coastal zone (territorial waters) out to 12 nautical miles in the Ionian Sea and the Ionian Islands to Cape Tainaro in the Peloponnese.

It follows an agreement signed between the two countries on June 9, 2020, and is an extension of a 1977 accord which paves the way for the two countries to explore for and exploit marine resources in the area.

Greece retains right to extend waters in Crete

Speaking in Parliament on Wednesday, PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis said that Greece retained the right to exercise corresponding rights other parts of its territory as well.

“Greece can obviously also exercise this right around Crete but at a time, in a manner and under the conditions of its own choosing,” he said.

Mitsotakis said the country was expanding its sovereign territory “neither by annexing (foreign) territory, nor at the expense of other states, but by following procedures that are based on international law.”

Historic moment

Greece decided to exercise its right to extend its territorial waters in the Ionian Sea, as provided for by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Foreign Affairs Minister Nikos Dendias praised the significance of the Wednesday evening plenary approval of the Ministry’s bill for extending Greece’s territorial waters to 12 nautical miles in the Ionian Sea.

On Twitter, Dendias wrote in English:

“A historic moment for our country. Following the adoption, with a substantial majority of votes in favor, of the draft law regarding the extension of Greece’s territorial waters in the Ionian islands, and the Ionian Sea up to Cape Tainaron, Greece is expanding.”

In a second tweet, the Minister clarified his remarks on the bill. “In line with International Law and in particular the International Law of the Sea, which constitutes part of the European acquis, we reserve our inherent right to expand the territorial waters in the other regions of the country as well.”

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