Turkey's Foreign Chief Disputes Greek Islands Sovereign Waters

Αssociated Press

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu says the clock is ticking on Cyprus. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

ANKARA -- 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 the Eastern Mediterranean.

He said that Kastellorizo - which Greece fears could be one of the first Turkey would try to take if it comes to a conflict - is only two kilometers (1.24 miles) from the Turkish coast and 570 kilometers (354.8 miles) from the Greek mainland.

He didn’t mention it was a Greek island but said based on Turkey’s thinking that Kastellorizo can’t have a 40,000-square kilometer (15,444-mile)  maritime zone. “We were saying that this cannot be the case, but Greece had these dreams,” Cavusoglu said.

Erdogan wants to begin drilling for energy off Crete under a deal with Libya dividing the seas between them that led Turkey to claim waters around Greek islands although no other country recognizes the agreement that has cranked up the tension with Greece.