ATHENS – Adding to growing tensions over rights to the seas between them, Greece reportedly plans to double its maritime boundaries to 12 miles off Crete – where Turkey said it would hunt for energy.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that Greece’s extending its territorial waters from six miles would be a cause for war, with the area around Greek islands near Turkey’s coast cutting off Turkey.
Greece had set a 12-mile boundary in the Ionian Sea but Albania is looking to roll back an earlier agreement ceding some waters to Greece in exchange for Greece supporting its European Union entry hopes.
The news outlet In.Gr reported that the New Democracy government is again considering the move to deal with more Turkish provocations ahead of elections in both countries to choose the heads of state.
The report cited unnamed sources in the office of the symbolic Presidency, which has no real power nor decision-making authority, not from Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ office.
The proposal has been reported a number of times without coming to fruition but the report said that a unilateral decision by Egypt to demarcate its western maritime borders with neighboring Libya and exploration work by U.S. energy giant ExxonMobil off Crete also prompted the move.
Despite what Erdogan said would be a cause for war – he has repeatedly threatened an invasion over Greece’s refusal to remove troops from Aegean islands near Turkey’s coat – the report said Greece didn’t expect a reaction.
Turkey and Libya earlier signed a deal dividing the seas between them, including off Crete, but no other country in the world recognizes it and the United Nation didn’t respond to Turkey’s call to do so.
Since early November, Exxon Mobil has been conducting seismic surveys in two blocks off Crete hoping to discover energy resources but Erdogan has said he will again send an energy research vessel and warships off Greek islands.
Libya accused Greece of exploiting the political crisis in Libya – there are two governments feuding – and said it was irresponsible for Greece to issue licenses for international companies to look for energy in Greek waters.
Turkey, which has ships drilling for oil and gas in Cypriot waters in defiance of soft European Union sanctions that exempted Erdogan, accused the Cypriot government of stoking trouble by authorizing French and Italian companies to look for energy in the same area.
Cyprus’ licensing and push to find energy sources have been carried out unilaterally” and “violate the rights of the Turkish-Cypriots, who are one of the co-owners of all natural resources of the island,” the Foreign Ministry said. Turks have occupied the northern third since unlawful 1974 invasions.
“These activities also increase the tension, and threaten peace and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean,” the statement said, adding that Turkey “would not allow hydrocarbon exploration or exploitation activities in its Continental Shelf without consent,” claiming ownership of the seas.