On June 3rd, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis stressed that Greece “will face all challenges with consistency, stability, confidence and always with a commitment to international law, as it always does” when it comes to Turkey.
Speaking during a meeting with President Katerina Sakellaropoulou, he said that Greece is not contributing to the tension with Turkey and expressed certainty that “we will have the full support of the European Union.
Sakellaropoulou said that Turkey “continues to create tensions, challenging any notion of good-neighborliness and our sovereign rights.” She said Greece will always protect its sovereign rights “with respect for international law.”
Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos also commented on the matter and said that Greece’s red lines are clearly marked, adding that the country does not hesitate to “show its teeth” in the face of external threats.
Panagiotopoulos said Greece had demonstrated its determination during the “organized attempt to violate our borders in Evros.”
“This is how we will react to any other issue,” the minister said.
“We have stated in a very clear and categorical fashion what our red lines are in the event that Turkey’s aggressive behavior escalates,” he said.
In response, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu stressed that Ankara’s energy designs, which include drilling in areas demarcated by the Turkish-Libya memorandum, are proceeding as planned.
He said there was readiness for drilling.
Cavusoglu stressed to Turkish TV station 24 TV, are “legal,” while he reiterated one of Ankara’s constant positions, according to which “the islands do not have a continental shelf, only territorial waters that reach 6 nautical miles.”
European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell urged Ankara to respect the sovereignty of Greece and Cyprus.
In response to questions about Turkish plans to begin hydrocarbon exploration near Greek islands, Borrell said the EU was monitoring developments while being “in close contact” with Athens and Nicosia.
“We are in close contact with our colleagues, the foreign ministers of Greece and also Cyprus, in order to follow the situation of the drillings, and we are calling on Turkey to stop drilling in the areas where there is the EEZ (exclusive economic zone) or territorial waters of Cyprus and Greece,” said Borrell, adding that the Foreign Affairs Council “already delivered a strong message addressed to Turkey.”
Borrell said that Turkey’s violations were an issue of “utmost importance” with regard to Ankara’s EU membership talks.
Following these statements, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has sent letters to top EU officials protesting over Turkey’s activities in the Eastern Mediterranean and the publication in the Turkish government’s gazette of a map outlining areas of the Greek continental shelf where Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO) has applied for exploration permits.
he foreign ministers of Greece, Cyprus, France, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain, a group dubbed the Med7, issued a joint declaration on June 4th, calling on “all countries of the region to respect international law, including the law of the sea, and in particular the sovereignty and sovereign rights of EU member-states.”
The declaration followed a teleconference between the seven countries’ foreign ministers, during which France, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain expressed their continued support for Greece and Cyprus vis-a-vis Turkey’s ongoing violations in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean.
The US Department of State also commented on the matter, calling the Turkey-Libya maritime deal “provocative and unhelpful.”
Answering a question posed by the Hellas Journal website, a State Department spokesman noted that the agreement cannot affect the rights or obligations of third states such as Greece
The spokesman reiterated recent statements by US Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Resources Francis Fannon and US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt that Greece’s islands have an exclusive economic zone and a continental shelf.
In comments at a virtual roundtable discussion on the Eastern Mediterranean and the trilateral partnership between Greece, Cyprus and Israel, Fannon said the Turkey-Libya memorandum “cannot as a legal matter affect the rights or obligations of third states” such as Greece.
“International Law, the Convention of the Law of the Sea generally recognises that islands … generally have an EEZ and they have a continental shelf, just as any other land territory, Fannon said. At the same time, an MoU “does not abrogate the rights of states,” he added, “their legal status is recognized, there’s not an equivalency here.”
Fannon noted that the United States has been “very consistent in calling to stop all provocative actions that could undermine investment confidence in the East Mediterranean region” and affect political stability.
“We can’t comment on future actions or what may or may not happen. We certainly just encourage that states stop provocative actions, and stop provocative behavior, and stop provocative statements, and really look at the opportunities that lie before them,” he said.
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