ΑΤΗΕΝS – Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias emphasised that Greece will continue to defend its rights and interests in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), in his recorded address to the 4th Symposium on International Law and International Policy of the Hellenic Society of International Law and International Relations “40 years since the 1982 Montego Bay Convention on the Law of the Sea” on Sunday.
He highlighted the importance of UNCLOS for Greece, as well as Turkey’s stubborn refusal to accept and apply UNCLOS, saying that the “Our Ocean Conference 2024” to be hosted by Greece will highlight the aspect of environmental protection under the treaty’s provisions.
The full address by the foreign minister is given below:
“It is with great pleasure that I address this year’s Conference, especially on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the signing of the Convention on the Law of the Sea, UNCLOS.
A Convention to which our country attaches utmost importance.
The Convention is also known as the ‘Constitution of the Oceans’, and this description is not a verbal exaggeration.
It is a description used by many of my Asian counterparts, among others, as I discovered during my recent visit to Asia.
The UNCLOS is a comprehensive regulatory framework that guarantees stability and legality in the activities of states at sea.
For our country, the UNCLOS has been the compass, the “Holy Gospel” of our foreign policy.
More than 165 countries have already ratified it.
And even countries that have not done so, such as the USA, call for its full and unconditional implementation.
UNCLOS is part of customary Law.
In accordance with the rules of the Convention, our country has taken a number of nationally significant and beneficial actions in recent years.
And I am proud to have participated in these actions: in the maritime delimitation agreement with Italy in June 2020, in the partial EEZ delimitation agreement with Egypt in August 2020.
Greece has repeatedly stated its intention and readiness to negotiate similar agreements with other neighbouring countries on the basis of International Law.
To this end, we have agreed with Albania to refer the delimitation of the maritime zones of the two states to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, in full compliance with the provisions of the UNCLOS.
Furthermore, in this way, our country exercised its right to extend its territorial waters to 12 nautical miles in the Ionian Sea area. And it reserves the right to exercise it in other parts of its territory.
Unfortunately, Turkey is the only country in the region that stubbornly refuses to accept what is obvious and apply UNCLOS.
Turkey’s violation of the rules of the International Law of the Sea constitutes a source of tension and instability: The threat to use force if Greece exercises its right to extend its territorial waters to 12 nautical miles; the promotion of the “Blue Homeland” theory; and the illegal Turkish-Libyan memorandum, are elements of Turkey’s unlawful conduct. All these constitute flagrant violations of International Law that seriously undermine any attempt to peacefully resolve the sole dispute we have with our neighbouring country.
Our country consistently supports and promotes positions and solutions in accordance with the Convention, which is, after all, part of the European acquis.
After 40 years, UNCLOS is more relevant and effective than ever in addressing global challenges.
And the need to ensure its integrity is more urgent than ever.
That is why Greece will continue to defend its interests and rights, always in accordance with UNCLOS.
I’d to add that Greece, through its active role in the UNCLOS Friends Group, is taking initiatives to highlight the importance of UNCLOS for stability and peace.
In this regard, the “Our Ocean Conference 2024” to be hosted by Greece aims, among other things, to highlight the aspect of environmental protection under the provisions of UNCLOS.”