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24 June, 2021
 
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Greek MPs approve extension of Ionian Sea territorial waters

Just days before Greece and Turkey are set to sit down for a new round of exploratory talks, the Greek Parliament passed legislation allowing the country to extend its Western coastline

Kathimerini Greece Newsroom

With 284 votes in favor and 16 “present,” lawmakers approved legislation on Wednesday to extend Greece’s territorial waters along its western coastline from six to 12 nautical miles.

The move comes a few days before Greece and Turkey are to resume exploratory talks over contested maritime claims in the Aegean Sea on January 25.

“For the first time since the Dodecanese (islands) in 1947, the national territory is enlarged by about 10%, with procedures completely based on the rules of international law,” said Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, addressing Parliament.

“The expansion of the waters to the West inevitably sends a message to the East. It shows that violence does not produce justice, but that – on the contrary – it is this law that produces peace,” he said, adding that the extension is “a clear message to those who are trying to deprive our country.”

Turkey reacts to Greece's territorial waters extension

Turkey's Ministry of Foreign Affairs noted in an announcement Wednesday that Greece's extension of its territorial waters from 6 to 12 miles does not regard the Aegean Sea and repeated the country's objections against such an extension in the Aegean.

“The extension of territorial waters in the Ionian Sea by Greece to 12 nautical miles reaches up [to] the south of the Peleponnesian Peninsula and does not affect the Aegean Sea in any way,” said ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy.

“Turkey has vital rights and interests in the semi-enclosed Aegean Sea, where special geographical circumstances prevail. Turkey’s position 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, is well-known by all parties. Our position remains unchanged,” he added.

Turkey and Greece are due to resume on Monday, after a 5-year hiatus, the exploratory talks they have been conducting since the 1990s. This will be the 61st round of talks.

On Wednesday morning, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, during a parliamentary debate on the territorial waters extension, repeated Greece's longstanding position, that it is within its right to extend its territorial waters whenever and wherever it chooses to, including south of Crete and elsewhere.

Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias had made a similar declaration Tuesday.

Mitsotakis: ‘I’ve always encouraged’ Erdogan to discuss maritime zones

Mitsotakis said he has “always encouraged” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to discuss the delimitation of maritime zones between the two countries, which is the only issue Athens recognizes as open to negotiations.

“I’ve always extended the hand of friendship to Turkey. And I’ve always encouraged President Erdogan to sit down and discuss the main difference that we have, which is the delimitation of our maritime zones,” he told in an interview with Monocle magazine.

“The story goes back decades but we can resolve it. If we can’t, we can take it to the International Court. That’s why international courts exist,” he added, referring to a Greek proposal for the two countries to seek mediation at the Court in The Hague if the issue cannot be settled through diplomacy.

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