Athens-Rome maritime deal a message to Ankara

Athens-Rome maritime deal a message to Ankara

The signing on Tuesday of a maritime border demarcation agreement between the Greek and Italian foreign ministers, Nikos Dendias and Luigi Di Maio, was seen as a clear message to Ankara regarding Greece’s diplomatic clout and its determination to move ahead with its plans on the basis of international law. 

The agreement, which is an extension of a 1977 accord, paves the way for Greece and Italy to explore for and exploit marine resources. The agreement must be ratified by both national parliaments.

It came amid mounting tension between Greece, Cyprus and Turkey, and after Ankara signed a contentious accord with the Tripoli-based government in Libya, which it claims gives it rights in parts of the Eastern Mediterranean that overlap Greece’s 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,” said Dendias, who described Tuesday as a “historic day.”

For his part, Di Maio also referred to a “historic moment.” Diplomatic sources said the two ministers also signed a joint statement expressing their commitment to a balanced and sustainable management of fish resources in the region.

Premier Kyriakos Mitsotakis welcomed the agreement as a “model of good-neighborly relations,” noting that it fully complies with international law and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

His remarks conveyed a sense of satisfaction in Athens and the anticipation that other countries in the region – in particular Egypt – will also delimit their exclusive economic zones with Greece.

More specifically, an agreement to demarcate maritime zones with Cairo would remove any semblance of international legitimacy stemming from Ankara’s memorandum with Libya.

Furthermore, an agreement would significantly change the terms of the game in the Eastern Mediterranean and render Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s incendiary rhetoric concerning Ankara’s intention in the region as empty threats. 

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