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Turkey suspends seismic survey of maritime region claimed by Greece

Increase font size  Decrease font size Date:2020-07-31   Views:20
Turkey has suspended seismic surveying of an area of the East Mediterranean claimed by Greece as part of its Exclusive Economic Zone.

Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin announced the suspension in a TV interview July 28, saying Ankara was prepared to sit down for talks with Greece on a range of issues including maritime boundaries in the Aegean, division of the continental shelf, and ownership of disputed islands and Cyprus, "without pre-condition."
Kalin did not say how long the surveying program had been suspended for, explaining only that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had decided it should be halted "for a while" to see how talks progressed.

The dispute over maritime borders stems from what Kalin described as "loopholes" in international maritime law, meaning that there is no international legal definition which can be applied to areas of contention such as the Aegean, the respective continental shelves of the two countries and the delineation of exclusive economic zones.

The spokesman said Athens had over-reacted to Turkish state upstream operator TPAO's surveying activities, pointing out that they were being conducted in an area 180 km from the Greek island of Castellorizo (Reis), and not close by as had been suggested.

The announcement was welcomed by Greek foreign minister Nikos Dendias, who described it as "positive."

"The necessary condition for dialog is the de-escalation on the part of Turkey," he said, explaining that the two sides would have to discuss the issues of the continental shelf and overlapping maritime zones in both the Aegean and East Mediterranean.

Ankara announced July 21 that TPAO's survey vessel Oruc Reis would survey within an area claimed by both Greece and Turkey as part of their exclusive economic zones.

The announcement was promptly condemned by the Greek foreign ministry, which described the move as an "escalation of tension" in the region.

Ankara maintains that international law allows for a continental shelf to be measured only from a mainland, and not from islands sitting on that continental shelf, while Athens claims that the shelf extends from islands also.

Turkey has used its interpretation as the basis for TPAO's ongoing drilling campaign in areas around Cyprus, which it claims also lies on its continental shelf. The campaign was widely condemned when it started in mid-2019.

Drill ships belonging to TPAO conducted drilling in three areas in the EEZ claimed by Cyprus but no results have been published.

Turkey, Greece and Cyprus have never attempted to negotiate their respective maritime borders, nor have they sought to have the matter resolved in the international courts.

In 2009 the UN International Court of Justice ruled in favor of Romania's claim that Ukraine's Snake Island, located off the Romanian coast, was entitled only to territorial waters stretching 12 km offshore.
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