ATHENS — An agreement Greece and Italy signed setting sea boundaries, with Albania likely to take part later, was seen as a counter to Turkey's maritime deal with Libya dividing waters between them and claiming regions off Greek islands.
Greece's Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias and Italy's Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio inked the deal that the newspaper Kathimerini was also designed to send a message to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who is stepping up provocations.
Erdogan has energy research vessels and warships in waters off Crete to conduct a hunt for oil and gas and said he would do the same off Crete under the agreement with Libya no other country recognizes.
The agreement, which is an extension of a 1977 accord, paves the way for Greece and Italy to explore for and exploit marine resources and must be ratified by the parliaments of both countries.
The timing was no coincidence, coming as tensions are rising between Greece, Cyprus and Turkey after the Libya deal which saw Turkey stake claim to areas around Greece's Continental Shelf.
“The delimitation of maritime zones is accomplished with valid agreements, not with invalid ones like that signed by Turkey and (the Libyan government of Fayez) al-Sarraj and with maps unilaterally submitted to the United Nations,” said Dendias.
Di Maio also referred to a “historic moment” and diplomatic sources not identified told the paper the ministers also signed a joint statement expressing their commitment to a balanced and sustainable management of fish resources in the region.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the deal was a “model of good-neighborly relations,” noting it complies with international law and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea which Turkey doesn't recognize but which it invoked over the Libya deal.
There was a sense, the report said, that the deal will lead to other Greek allies against Turkish sea incursions, especially Egypt, to also delimit Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) with Greece and further invalidate the Turkey-Libya deal.
His remarks conveyed a sense of satisfaction in Athens and the anticipation that other countries in the region – in particular Egypt – will also delimit their exclusive economic zones with Greece. Turkey sent a map to the United Nations seeking ratification.
The UN and Turkey recognize the Fayez al-Sarraj Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli which holds a small part of Libya while Greece backs the Tobruk-based Libyan National Army, led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar.
Turkey has sent aid, including military equipment and, Turkish intelligence agents and mercenaries to prop up al-Sarraj and protect the maritime deal.