ATHENS -- "Ankara, with a new move that is added to the successive provocations of the recent period has proceeded to unilaterally and arbitrarily redefine the boundaries of its area of responsibility for search and rescue in its jurisdiction. This decision is clearly illegal as it overlaps with areas under Greek jurisdiction but also under Greek sovereignty," underlined government spokesperson Stelios Petsas while briefing the press on Monday.
"It is not based on operational criteria and does not serve purposes linked to the safety of human life. It is in direct conflict with international legality and does not produce legal results," added Petsas.
He underlined that the Greek area of jurisdiction for search and rescue has been defined since the 1950s and has been submitted to the responsible international maritime organisation since 1975, while it coincides with the Athens Flight Information Region (FIR). Petsas also pointed out that Greece, via its unified rescue and rescue centre in Piraeus, effectively coordinates all search and rescue missions within Greece's area of responsibility, offering its services to all the vessels and aircraft that may be in danger.
Petsas said that the last EU Summit in its results repeated EU leaders unanimous demand to Turkey to stop the provocative actions in the eastern Mediterranean reiterating the need to respect the UN Security Council Treaties. It also reaffirmed the previous EU Summit's conclusion which refer to specific articles on the imposition of sanctions.
On the pandemic, the government spokesperson underlined that many European Union leaders expressed great concern at the last EU SUmmit over the sharp increase in cases, the number needing breathing support and deaths over most of Europe.
Petsas said that the epidemiological situation in Greece continues to be better than in many other countries but underlined that this could change at any time, so that complacency was not allowed.
He referred to Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis' visit on Monday to Sotiria hospital for the inauguration of 50 more ICU beds, a donation of the Greek parliament, which will initially be used in the fight against COVID-19. He said that the government's commitment is for Greece to very soon reach the EU average for the number of ICU beds per population and that this commitment will soon become action.
Referring to the prime minister's recent visit to the region of Evros, Petsas said that Mitsotakis expressed his strong interest in an effective protection of the borders and was briefed on site about the construction of a fence along the border that is expected to be concluded in April. It is clear, he said, that the new fence contributed to the defence of Greece's sovereign rights and sends a clear message in all directions that Greece is protecting Europe's external borders.
Petsas said that for the more effective protection of the borders, another 400 permanent border guards will be hired and go on duty immediately, while another 800 will be sent to the eastern Aegean islands and another 480 to the rest of the country. In a year's time, he added, a total of 1,680 border guards will be deployed at all points requiring an enhanced police presence.
Concluding, Petsas referred to the Prime Minister's programme in the next few days, starting with his video conference with the regional governor of Central Macedonia Apostolos Tzitzikostas and the mayor of Thessaloniki Konstantinos Zervas on Monday about the rising numbers of Covid-19 cases in Thessaloniki.
On Wedneday, Mitsotakis will be in Nicosia for the trilateral summit of Egypt, Greece and Cyprus and on Thursday he will visit President of the Hellenic Republic Katerina Sakellaropoulou for one of their regular monthly meetings.