Turkish FM cagey on Aegean concerns during Athens visit

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Wednesday that Greece should not declare an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) until a bilateral agreement has been reached on the delineation of the continental shelf and the two countries? territorial waters, while stressing that Ankara had no plans to prospect for oil and gas off the island of Kastelorizo.

Davutoglu, who met with his Greek counterpart Dimitris Avramopoulos and with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras in Athens, sought to play down the issue of the EEZ, noting that it was ?an artificial, not a political issue? and that it could be determined following whatever agreement emerges from bilateral talks. He added that Turkish exploration vessels would not approach Kastelorizo as the island is part of the Mediterranean, not the Aegean. He also played down the significance of the casus belli — Turkey?s declared threat that a move by Greece to exercise its right to extend its territorial waters to 12 nautical miles would constitute a cause for war — by describing it as a reflex reaction of the Turkish military to a Greek parliamentary decision.

Davutoglu?s talks with Avramopoulos focused on plans for the High-Level Cooperation Council — comprising ministers from both countries — to convene in Turkey in January. Issues on the agenda are expected to include bilateral cooperation in energy, trade, culture and transport.

On Wednesday, Davutoglu and Avramopoulos also discussed developments in Syria and illegal immigration, with the Greek minister calling for more Turkish support in tackling the latter.

Meanwhile Defense Minister Panos Panagiotopoulos met with his Turkish counterpart Ismet Yilmaz on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Brussels and reportedly agreed to set up a telephone hotline for emergencies.

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