Ankara and Athens to resume ‘Aegean’ talks

Ankara and Athens to resume ‘Aegean’ talks

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Ankara and Athens to resume ‘Aegean’ talks

Vessels and airplanes belonging to Greece and Turkey have often confronted each other in the Aegean and the airspace over it, bringing the two countries to the brink of war. Hürriyet photo

Turkey and Greece will resume exploratory talks for the creation of a border in the disputed Aegean Sea, which were suspended in July 2011 after more than 50 rounds of meetings.

The decision was made during Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s visit to Athens on Oct. 10, where he held extensive talks with his counterpart Dimitris Avramopoulos as well as Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.

Senior diplomats and experts will meet in the coming months for a general review of the earlier rounds of talks, according to information gathered by Hürriyet Daily News. Begun in 2002, 52 rounds of exploratory talks were held in order to find a way to solve the problems stemming from the absence of a border between Greece and Turkey in the Aegean Sea. Vessels and airplanes belonging to both countries often confront each other in the Aegean and the airspace over it, which brought the two countries to the brink of war in 1996.

Turkey has reported 53 incidents this year in which Greek vessels have violated Turkish territorial waters, and 149 incidents in which Greek aircraft have violated Turkish airspace. The preparatory meeting will lay the ground for the prime ministers and foreign ministers of the two countries, who will come together in a meeting to be held in Turkey in January as part of the High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council meeting. The meeting of the four leaders will address three top issues; namely the Aegean dispute, the Cyprus problem and the problem of minorities. Despite the implementation of a strict blackout on the content of the talks, there were reports that two countries were very close to reaching an agreement as to how to draw a borderline in the Aegean Sea.

‘A viable plan’
The plan envisages delimitation of the territorial waters at different lengths in different parts of the Aegean, with six nautical miles in the northern and three miles in the southern areas of the sea. “This may be a viable plan, but we will see how the leaders evaluate such a formula,” diplomatic sources told the Daily News.

The Aegean problem is not limited to the delimitation of territorial waters: Also remaining to be resolved are the delimitation of airspace, exclusive economic zones, the continental shelf, and the contested sovereignty of a number of small islands, islets.