Vitsas: “How Greece will exercise its territorial sea rights ‘without friction’ is an open issue”

21 December 2017
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The way that Greece will be able to exercise its sovereign rights under the international law of the sea without causing any additional friction with its neighbours remained “an open issue”, Alternate Defence Minister Dimitris Vitsas said on Wednesday, in a radio interview.

“How exactly our right will be exercised is another issue, which has to do with government decisions. We hope and are working to announce the Greek Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) within a specific period of time. It is an issue – since all these matters have to do with bilateral and multilateral relations – that is linked with the delineation and operation of energy routes and the exploitation of wealth under the sea”, Vitsas said.

Vitsas had been asked to comment on statements made by Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias about a possible gradual extension of Greece’s territorial sea in line with UN treaties.

He also pointed out that these were matters linked to geostrategic concerns, on the one hand, but also to major economic interests – not just states – that were highlighted by geopolitical issues.

Replying on Turkey’s behaviour after the Turkish president’s visit to Greece, Vitsas said the government had “not expected everything to go quiet” after the visit. He also stressed that this had served to not only make Greece’s positions heard and understood but “also supported by all the major powers and great organizations”.

“It is in the interests of Turkey, of our relations with that country and its own relations with the modern world for it to follow a European path”, he added, while noting that Greece and the Greek armed forces were “always prepared to face any threat”.

In an interview on Tuesday morning, Kotzias had referred to Greece’s right to extend its territorial sea and noted that this was its “own right, not a problem that we can discuss with Turkey”.

“Our problem is the continental shelf. Only that, technically, in order to delineate the continental shelf you have to first delineate the territorial sea over which you have sovereignty,” Kotzias added. He announced that Greece will proceed to delineate the territorial sea “in sections” rather than outright, noting that a maximalist approach had for decades “gotten nowhere”. Kotzias also stressed the importance of the territorial sea in order to delineate an EEZ with all countries, indicating that the process may start with Albania.

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