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Greece Says Ready to Talk Seas Boundaries With Turkey

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FILE - Environment and Energy Minister Kostis Hatzidakis visits Chryssi island. (Photo by Eurokinissi)

Signalling an apparent willingness to revise its sovereign seas boundaries and Continental Shelf, Greece is ready to discuss with Turkey the possibility of a revising  Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) for the two countries.

That was the word from Greece’s Environment and Energy Minister Kostis Hatzidakis after Turkey disputed areas around Greek islands near Turkey’s coast an in the East Mediterranean and Aegean Sea.

That extended all the way to Crete, where Turkey said it would begin drilling for energy off the coast under a maritime deal with Libya dividing the seas between them that no other country recognizes.

"If Turkey wants to make a deal similar to that (Greece did) with Italy, we are here to discuss it," Hatzidakis tweeted, in Greek. That was in reference to Greece and Italy setting zones between them as Turkey and Libya did.

While Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Greece would defend itself if a conflict broke out over the disputes around sea boundaries, Hatzidakis said Greece is willing to talk, if Turkey is.

"If it doesn't, the Mitsotakis government has made its positions clear, both on (the) Evros (land border) and with the EastMed (pipeline). In no way will we leave our country defenseless," he added.

Greek armed forces chief General Konstantinos Floros said there were worries an accidental conflict could quickly escalate, indication of anxieties that shooting could start from one or either or both sides.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has repeated his country’s claim that Greek islands far from the mainland don’t have Continental shelves, clearing the way for Turkey to claim the waters and hunt for energy.

A continental shelf is a portion of a continent that is submerged under an area of shallow water known as a shelf sea and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier said he coveted the return of some islands ceded to Greece under the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne.

“We say that not every island can have a continental shelf. In particular, the islands that are far from the mainland and closer to Turkey cannot have a continental shelf,” Cavusoglu said during an interview on Turkish television in which he presented several maps outlining the country’s claims in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean.