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Politics

Greece Moves to Extend Ionian Sea Boundaries to 12 Nautical Miles

ATHENS – Locked in a fierce dispute with Turkey over boundaries in the Aegean and East Mediterranean, Greece’s New Democracy government moved to push its limits in the Ionian Sea off the west coast from six to 12 miles.

That had been indicated earlier, drawing fire from Turkey as a warning not to attempt to do the same near waters off its coast, the two countries wrangling over rights to drill for energy near Greek islands.

It’s a foregone conclusion it will be approved as the government controls the Parliament, to which it submitted a bill for the 12-mile limit in the Ionian after negotiations with neighbors Italy and Albania over their rights to the waters.

Greece and Italy have already signed an agreement on maritime boundaries establishing an Exclusive Economic Zone in the Ionian Sea but Albania hasn’t yet agreed to all the details and the issue is going to the International Court of Justice.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis met Albanian Premier Edi Rama in Athens on Jan. 8, said Reuters about the plan to extend the sea limits that has Turkey keeping a close eye on the proceedings.

“This draft legislation confirms Greece’s strategy of seeking agreements with neighbouring countries, based always on international law and promoting security and prosperity in the region,” Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said

The bill cites the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea retaining Greece’s right to extend sea limits elsewhere – such as the Aegean and East Mediterranean, but Turkey doesn’t recognize that law nor parts of Greek waters.

Dendias said the action, which the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA considered, was historic but Turkey had warned that doing so – even off Greece’s west coast – could be a cause for war.

Greece and Turkey, through tweets and statements, indicated a willingness to resume exploratory talks after a four-year break but don’t have formal communications during the constant tension.

Mitsotakis, after withdrawing demands for sanctions in October from the European Union, in December asked they imposed by the bloc’s leaders refused, Germany and other countries having lucrative arms deals with Turkey, selling weapons that could be used against Greece.

The EU said it wouldn’t even broach talk of sanctions until March although Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, after withdrawing an energy research vessel and warships off the Greek island Kastellorizo said he would now send them back.

The parliamentary committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense will begin debate on the bill on Jan. 12, a second reading Jan. 15 and a vote to the body now set for Jan. 19, said Kathimerini.

“The bill concerning the extension of (Greek) territorial waters in the Ionian Sea is a historic moment as the country exercises an inalienable right on the basis of international law and the international law of the sea,” Dendias tweeted.

“The bill confirms Greece’s strategy to pursue agreements with neighboring countries, always on the basis of international law, promoting security and prosperity in the region,” he also said.

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