Davutoglu defends Aegean rights, says dispute can be solved
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has said that although Turkey and Greece have different opinions in relation to the demarcation of exclusive economic zones (EEZ) in the Aegean Sea and other sensitive issues, the two countries can resolve the issues with new approaches.
“We know there are differences of opinion. The important thing is whether we will let these be an obstacle, like a Berlin Wall, which is not sustainable, logical or ethical,” Davutoglu told Greek daily Kathimerini. Noting that relations between the two countries have changed in a positive way, Davutoglu said Turkey and Greece are seeking to open new horizons in their relations. “For us, the Aegean is the sea of dialogue and friendship,” noted Davutoglu, adding that Greece and Turkey could work together -- by showing respect to each other's rights -- so as to take advantage of the rich resources in the region.
Turkey and Greece disagree on the demarcation of the Turkish and Greek exclusive economic zones, which set the maritime borders and the respective rights to explore natural resources within them, due to a dispute over whether the Greek islands off the Turkish coast should be taken into consideration when determining these boundaries.
Turkey argues that distances should be measured from the continental mainland, while Greece wants all islands to be taken into account.
“Of course international law and national sovereignty form the backbone of these negotiations, but … the best way to solve these problems is through bilateral dialogue because the Aegean is a particular case with thousands of islands, and at the same time is part of the wider Mediterranean,” Davutoglu was reported as saying in the Greek daily. “Turkey has the longest coastline in the Mediterranean,” Davutoglu added. “No one can expect Turkey to remain landlocked due to certain measures. We can find a solution whereby all these islands and Turkey's interests as the country with the longest coastline in the Mediterranean can be taken into account. These are not conflicting positions.”
Recently, Turkey and Greece exchanged criticism over the state-owned Turkish Petroleum Corporation's (TPAO) planned exploration for hydrocarbon reserves in the east Mediterranean. Athena claimed that the area where the TPAO has been given a license to explore includes part of the Greek continental shelf and declared that it had taken the issue to the UN by sending a diplomatic message to the world body that outlined their complaints. Ankara responded to the accusation, saying that the licenses granted to TPAO since 2007 are confined to areas that are within the Turkish continental shelf and that Turkey has a sovereign right to explore and extract hydrocarbon reserves in the disputed area.
Greece says the UN Law of the Sea, which Turkey has not signed, supports its stance in the dispute. The UN treaty says the islands should be taken into consideration when delineating the continental shelf of littoral states, but it says this principle applies only to big islands, not small islets or rocks. Turkey rejects the Greek claims simply because the Aegean would become a Greek sea if the Greek islands off the Turkish coast are taken into consideration when creating the borders of territorial waters. Davutoglu, stating that differences between Greece and Turkey were mostly psychological, said the problems could be resolved once they overcome psychological obstacles standing in the way. “When the two countries react [to an issue] emotionally and unreasonably, even a small issue can be a reason to declare war,” added the Turkish foreign minister.
Besides Davutoglu's positive messages towards Greece in relation to a resolution of the problems, Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos conveyed optimism about finding a solution to the Aegean issue. “We are in discussions and searching for common ground because both sides understand how great the benefit would be if we are able to delineate the continental shelf between us from Evros to Kastellorizo,” said Avramopoulos in a separate interview with the Kathimerini daily.
Stressing his country's sensitivity in the case of the determination of Greek EEZs, the Greek foreign minister noted: “We are operating based on our planning and strategy, with the framework of our sovereign rights as derived from international law. No one should doubt our willingness and determination to defend this. International law is our gospel.”
Tuesday, March 12, 2013