Samaras to Turkey to discuss Aegean, other gray areas

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is due in Istanbul on Monday, in his first official visit to Turkey as premier, for talks that are expected to touch on several thorny bilateral issues including a long-standing dispute regarding territorial waters and the continental shelf, as Greece seeks to prospect for oil and gas in the Aegean.

Buoyed by the findings of a Norwegian petroleum company that pointed to the existence of fuel deposits in the Ionian Sea and south of Crete, Samaras is expected to broach the issue of territorial waters during talks with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Ankara is opposed to Greece exploring for oil and gas in the Aegean until a dispute over the delineation of the continental shelf has been resolved. Samaras has accused Ankara of invoking international law to defend its rights without having ratified that law though he insists that Greece wants to settle its differences with Turkey peacefully. Other issues expected to be discussed during the second session of the Greek-Turkish High Level Cooperation Council are Erdogan’s objection to the Greek state’s appointment of muftis for the Muslim minority in Thrace, northern Greece, and stalled plans for the construction of a state mosque in Athens.

Samaras will be accompanied by several officials including Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos and Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias. The latter is expected to sign a pact with his Turkish counterpart for closer cooperation in curbing illegal immigration.

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