Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias and his Italian counterpart Luigi Di Maio on Tuesday inked a maritime borders agreement delimiting an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) between the two countries.
The agreement, which was signed by the two foreign ministers during a visit by Di Maio to Athens and is an extension of a 1977 accord, paves the way for Greece and Italy to explore for and exploit marine resources.
It also paves the way for Greece to reach a similar deal with neighboring Albania.
“The delimitation of maritime zones with all of our neighbors in the context of international law is a consistent objective for this country,” Dendias said in comments after signing the agreement.
In a regular press briefing earlier in the day, government spokesman Stelios Petsas hailed the agreement as “a development of historical significance.”
The agreement comes amid months of mounting tension between Greece, Cyprus and Turkey and also after Ankara signed a contentious accord with the Tripoli-based government in Libya it claims gives it exploration and drilling rights in parts of the Eastern Mediterranean that overlap the Greek continental shelf.
“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 and with maps unilaterally submitted to the United Nations,” Dendias said on Tuesday.
Dendias and Di Maio had met in Rome in February to discuss further cooperation between the two countries in the energy sector in the eastern Mediterranean, where Greece and Italy are partners on the EastMed gas pipeline project.
The EEZ agreement had been under negotiation for several years as the two sides hashed out the details, particularly with regard to reservations expressed by Rome over fishing rights in the Ionian Sea.