Greece, Turkey lock horns over sovereignty in the Aegean

Greece, Turkey lock horns over sovereignty in the Aegean

Turkey and Greece exchanged tense statements on Wednesday concerning their sovereignty over protected ecosystems in the Aegean, following a speech by Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos on Monday who argued that all Natura 2000 regions in Greece, irrespective of their size or whether they were inhabited, are within Greek and EU borders.

Turkey said it will not accept a "fait accompli" by Greece in the Aegean concerning islets which form part of the EU environmental program Natura 2000, and reiterated its view that there are "grey zones" over which Greece does not have sovereign rights.

"It is well known that Greece has long been exploiting EU’s environmental programs, primarily 'Natura 2000' with respect to the Aegean issues," the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Hami Aksoy said in a statement.

"These statements do not bear any legal effect […] Turkey, as has been the case until today, as well as hereinafter, will not accept any possible fait accompli to be presented by Greece towards the geographical formations in the Aegean Sea, legal status of which are disputed," he added. 

A spokesman for the Greek Foreign Ministry responded that the legal status of the Aegean and, by extension, Greece’s right to exercise its sovereign rights that derive from international law, "cannot be disputed," and include the designation of regions with protected ecosystems.

"Turkey only recently officially restated its intention to 'stay on course for accession to the European Union.' It is obvious that the first thing Turkey needs to do if it wants to succeed is to respect international law and the European acquis," Alexandros Yennimatas said. 

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