Turkey Strongly Reacts to Greece’s Stated Intent to Expand Territorial Waters

Turkey has strongly reacted to a recent statement by departing Greek foreign minister Nikos Kotzias that Greece intends to extend its territorial waters in the Ionian Sea to 12 nautical miles.

In response, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has suspended plans to extend Greek territorial waters in the Ionian Sea from six to 12 nautical miles and will instead bring the matter to parliament as a bill.

Even though the expansion did not include maritime borders in the Aegean, the Turkish government has assumed that Greece would attempt to enforce such an expansion in the Aegean as well as in the Ionian. Greece’s eastern territorial waters in the Aegean have been a source of friction with neighboring Turkey for decades.

Greece says it has the right to extend its sea borders to the 12 nautical miles, the maximum allowed under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The Greek side, upon signing this declaration, had stated that the determination of the proper time to enforce this expansion is a matter of national strategy, and that the decision can be made unilaterally. However, Turkey insists that the territorial waters of the two countries are a bilateral issue.

Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy on Tuesday referred to a declaration by the Turkish Parliament in 1995 that if Greece unilaterally extended its territorial waters it would be a “casus belli”  for Ankara, Greek daily Kathimerini reported.

“We are in favour of settling matters through peace and negotiations, without turning it into a close conflict in any way,” Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akay stated on Wednesday regarding relations with Greece, according to Turkey’s Anadolu news agency.

Meanwhile, regarding this latest dispute between Greece and Turkey, a European Commission representative told Euractiv.com that the EU remains committed to good neighborly relations and respect for international agreements.