Ankara has used contradictory language over the last 24 hours regarding the Greece-Italy agreement for the delimitation of the countries’ maritime zones in the Ionian Sea.
Tellingly, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday, indirectly but clearly, that the agreement was positive and acknowledged that the islands have some limited influence, while insisting at the same time that they cannot have a continental shelf.
Speaking to Turkey’s NTV, Cavusoglu said the maritime deal signed between Greece and Italy “has proven the validity of Turkey’s argument on such maritime deals.” He said Greece has always believed that the islands also have a continental shelf, not just territorial waters. “We support the opposite,” he said. According to his interpretation of the accord, “essentially Greece agrees with what we say.”
In response, diplomatic sources in Athens advised Cavusoglu to read the agreement more carefully, emphasizing that the agreement with Rome fully guarantees the rights of the Greek islands to exclusive economic zones and a continental shelf.
The sources accused Ankara of adopting a “selective interpretation” of international law.
“We are glad that Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mr Mevlut Cavusoglu has expressed his satisfaction on the maritime boundary agreement between Italy and Greece, which fully consolidates the rights of islands to a continental shelf and exclusive economic zone,” a diplomatic source told Kathimerini.
“It means that Turkey is changing the position it has held until today in a way that contradicts its adoption of the illegal Turkey-Libya memorandum,” the source said. “Of course, [Cavusoglu] still tends to have a selective interpretation of international law, particularly of the international Law of the Sea, but we would advise him not to miss the forest for the tree,” the source added.
For his part, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Thursday during the Delphi Economic Forum that Athens and Ankara “agree that we disagree,” but stressed that “there is international arbitration in The Hague.” He added, however, that international law must be respected. It is not the time for gunboat diplomacy, which belongs to a different era, he added.
“If Turkey is thinking about violating the sovereign rights of the Hellenic Republic, not only will it get a response from Greece, I am pretty sure it will get a response from Europe,” Mitsotakis said.