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Greece, Italy sign deal on maritime zones

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Greece and Italy signed an agreement on defining their maritime boundaries during a visit by Italy’s foreign minister to Athens on Tuesday.

The deal follows months of tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean region over natural energy resources.

Turkey, Greece and Cyprus have been caught in a complex diplomatic standoff over the issue.

Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio and his Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias signed the agreement, an extension of a 1977 accord, paving the way for Greece and Italy to explore and exploit marine resources.

It also opens the way for Greece to reach a similar deal with neighbouring Albania.

“The delimitation of maritime zones with all of our neighbours in the context of international law is a consistent objective for this country,” Dendias said after signing the agreement.

Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas hailed the agreement as “a development of historical significance.”

At a meeting in Rome in February, the two ministers discussed ways of cooperating in the energy sector in the eastern Mediterranean.

Italy, Greece and Cyprus are already partners in the EastMed gas pipeline project intended to transport 10 billion cubic meters of gas per year from off-shore gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean to Greece, Italy and other southeastern European countries.

The accord between the two countries comes months after a deal on maritime boundaries between Turkey and Libya’s Tripoli-based internationally recognised government.

That agreement angered Greece and Cyprus which view the move as infringing on their own sovereign rights.

Turkey has also launched illegal energy drills off Cyprus which has incurred the wrath of the EU.

“The delimitation of maritime zones is accomplished with valid agreements, not with invalid ones like that signed by Turkey and [the Libyan government of Fayez] al-Sarraj,” Dendias said on Tuesday.