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Turkey Plans Marine Parks in Aegean to Counter Greece’s Proposals

ATHENS – Responding to Greece’s plan to create marine parks in the Aegean Sea, Turkey announced it would establish one as well, continuing to question sovereignty and expressing frustration that it wasn’t notified about the scheme.

Turkey’s pro-government newspaper, The Daily Sabah, quoting an unnamed official, reported that the Transportation and Infrastructure Ministry is developing the plan in response to Greece’s announcement of creating two marine parks.

This initiative is part of a €780 million ($846.46 million) program designed to protect biodiversity and marine ecosystems, with one park in the Aegean and the other off Greece’s west coast in the Ionian Sea, together covering 30% of the waters.

The Aegean park will span 11 groups of deserted islands and islets from west of the island of Milos to Nisyros, known as the “Greek Galapagos” due to their rich biodiversity. The Ionian park will cover an area from Kefalonia to Kythera and Antikythera.

Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan earlier stated that Turkey does not view the plan as an “innocent environmental project,” but as a potential breach of his country’s “red line” and an encroachment on waters it disputes.

The parks will be monitored using drones, satellites, and artificial intelligence starting after 2026. The areas will be reserved for scientific research, with controlled ship traffic and no construction activity.

“Greece’s unilateral move without consulting Turkey translates into territorialization through boundary-making and regulating the use of resources within this geographically defined area,” the paper stated.

Marine parks are set aside to develop ecological sustainability and enable marine recreational activities, but Turkey argued that international laws—some of which it doesn’t recognize—do not provide clear guidance for transboundary marine conservation.

Greece said its plan aims to protect biodiversity and marine ecosystems, including banning bottom trawling and tackling plastic and microplastic pollution, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said at an international oceans conference in Athens.

“The ocean has paid a heavy price for its service to humankind. It has been a vital source of life and livelihood. We have not been kind to it in return,” he stated, noting that the plan would also use drones, satellites, and artificial intelligence to patrol the areas.

He also pledged that by 2030, Greece will reduce plastic pollution in the water by 50% and microplastics by 30% compared to 2019 levels, as Greece’s seas are important tourism attractions increasingly polluted with plastics.

Under the slogan “the sea is not for sale,” Greenpeace urged leaders at the conference to protect marine environments. “The conference must not be simply an opportunity for governments to congratulate themselves for what they have said until now,” said Nikos Charalambidis, head of Greenpeace in Greece.

When the plan was revealed, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry accused Athens of exploiting environmental issues to push its geopolitical agenda. The countries, both NATO members, have been at odds for decades over issues, including territorial claims in the Aegean, and reached the brink of war three times in the last 50 years.

“It is known that Greece has long been trying to benefit from almost every platform in the context of Aegean problems,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry stated. “Despite the recent softening in our relations, it appears that Greece is exploiting environmental issues this time,” it said, but Greece’s Foreign Ministry retorted that Turkey was “politicizing a clearly environmental issue.”

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