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Greece Says Turkish Aegean Search and Rescue Area Unlawful Ruse

Αssociated Press

Turkey s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, shows a map of Greece and Turkey as he speaks during a conference in Bratislava, Slovakia, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020.(Fatih Aktas/Turkish Foreign Ministry via AP, Pool)

ATHENS – In yet another claim of large swathes of Greek seas, a Turkish map designating a “search and rescue area” covers half the Aegean Sea, including routes to Greek islands where Turkey lets human traffickers keep sending refugees and migrants.

Greece's Foreign Ministry said the map, just like another in which Turkey claimed ownership of waters around Greek islands under a deal with Libya no other country recognizes is also unlawful and dangerous.

The area "as well as the one defined by a 1988 law is illegal to the extent that it includes Greek areas of sovereignty and responsibility...it is not based on operational criteria and it does not serve the purpose of (ensuring) the safety of human lives," the ministry said, reported Kathimerini.

"It is obvious that with this latest move that is exclusively politically motivated, Turkey does not hesitate to cause confusion, risking human lives. This move has been added to a long litany of Turkish arbitrary actions and illegal claims in the Aegean and the eastern Mediterranean that are to blame for the recent unprecedented escalation," the statement added.

It finished: "Turkey must, at some point , comply at last with international legal norms," referring to ongoing provocations in which Turkey has sent an energy research vessel, the Oruc Reis, and warships into Greek waters near the island of Kastellorizo as part of plan to drill for oil and gas.

That came after Greece pulled back demands for European Union sanctions to give diplomacy a chance but now has led Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsostakis to say there won't be talks as long as Turkish ships are in Greek waters.

Before the move the EU gave Turkey until the end of the year to reach a resolution with Greece over seas boundaries or face possible sanctions but the bloc hasn't acted to impose them over the new violation. 

The search-and-rescue area map ostensibly is designed to show where Turkish craft could operate to try to save people at risk, including refugees and migrants that Turkey put at risk.

If the little rubber dinghies and overcrowded rickety craft into which refugees and migrants are put and directed toward five Greek islands then get into trouble and need help, Turkey could under its map try to send vessels into Greek waters in the Aegean as a pretense.