ENERGY: Greece and Turkey sabre rattle over East Med riches

3 mins read

Turkey Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said Wednesday, Ankara will not allow Greece to interfere in its activities in the eastern Mediterranean. It has issued similar warnings against Cyprus' energy search recently.

Akar told the Anadolu Agency, that no project was possible in the East Med without the involvement of Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots, in the breakaway north of the island.

His comments come a day after Turkey warned Greece that if it extends its territorial waters in the Aegean from 6 to 12 nautical miles it will be a cause for war.

“It is not possible to tolerate steps where there is no bilateral agreement on the Aegean where the two countries have mutual shores,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said in a statement.

Tough words from Ankara, triggered a sharp rebuke from Athens that it would decide when and how it exercises its sovereign rights.

The war of words comes after Greece’s former foreign minister said Greece planned to extend its territorial waters to 12 miles to the west of the country.

Territorial waters are a sensitive issue between the two neighbours and NATO allies, who are separated by the Aegean Sea and have been at odds over airspace, divided Cyprus and offshore mineral rights for decades.

Former Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, who resigned last week, said on that Athens planned to extend its territorial waters in the Ionian Sea. The planned measure would not affect the Aegean region, off Greece’s eastern and southern coasts.

Ankara, however, said that it had noted previous statements from Athens of plans for the gradual expansion of Greek territorial waters.

In Athens, a foreign ministry spokesman said Greece’s rights would not be dictated by third parties. “The extension of the coastal zone is a legal and inalienable sovereign right of Greece, in accordance with international law,” he said.

“The relevant decision for an extension is exclusively up to Greece, which has the right to extend its territorial waters whenever, and as, it sees fit.”

Turkey’s statement recalled a 1995 declaration of the Turkish parliament which had authorized action, not excluding military action, to safeguard Turkish interests.

“(Parliament’s) declaration…dated 8 June 1995 has the necessary political warning in this context and it still maintains its validity today,” the Turkish statement added.

As a sign of rising tensions, Ankara said last week a Greek frigate had harassed a Turkish energy exploration vessel in the region.