Greece’s move in Ionian Sea doesn’t affect Aegean: Turkey
Greece’s extension of its territorial waters to 12 nautical miles in the Ionian Sea does not affect the Aegean Sea, the Turkish Foreign Ministry has said, stressing no change on Turkey’s opposition against Greece’s attempts to increase its territorial waters in the Aegean.
“The extension of territorial waters in the Ionian Sea by Greece to 12 nautical miles reaches up the south of the Peloponnesian Peninsula and does not affect the Aegean Sea in any way,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said in a statement, responding to a question on the matter.
Aksoy underlined that 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.”
Turkey’s position remains unchanged, he stressed. In the mid-1990s, Greece attempted to extend its territorial waters in the Aegean Sea to 12 miles but scuttled the plan after Turkey declared that such a move would be a casus belli, or cause for war.
Greece’s parliament approved a bill Wednesday that envisions an increase to Greece’s territorial waters in the Ionian Sea from 6 nautical miles to 12. The decree on the closure of the bays and the marking of straight baselines in the Ionian Sea region and the Ionian Islands up to Cape Tainaro in the Peloponnese took effect Dec. 27 after it was published in the Greek official gazette.
The draft bill was taken to parliament on Jan. 9 for discussion by lawmakers. Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said Tuesday that discussions on extending territorial waters off the eastern part of Crete Island are being held. In the future, Greece could also extend territorial waters in other maritime areas, he added.
Turkey sees statements by senior Greek officials concerning the Aegean Sea are aiming to repair the government’s image in the eyes of the Greek public opinion after being disappointed with the EU Council decisions on Dec. 10.
Greek pressure for tough sanctions on Turkey due to its activities in the eastern Mediterranean was ignored by the EU, a development that caused internal criticisms against the Greek government.
Ahead of the resumption of the exploratory talks on Jan. 25 between the senior officials from Turkey and Greece, Athens is in an effort to distract the public opinion, many in Ankara believe.