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Papandreou reveals Greece, Turkey almost agreed to resort to ICJ in 2003

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Socialist former prime minister George Papandreou revealed that in 2003 the governments of Greece and Turkey almost agreed to resolve the issue of delineating their continental shelf through the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague.

During an interview with private Turkish network NTV last week, Papandreou, who was Foreign Minister at the time, stressed the importance of using dialogue and the framework of international law to de-escalate tension between the two neighbours.

He added that both sides hold some strong views on the issue but that it should not be a barrier to dialogue between them. In this spirit, he hailed the recent resumption of exploratory talks between Greece and Turkey. 

“Naturally, we hope that during these exploratory talks we can create a negotiating framework to solve the issue of the continental shelf, either bilaterally or if necessary, through the ICJ in Hague,” he was quoted as saying.

“In my experience, we managed to isolate and define the issue and we came very close to reaching a minimum agreement on what needs to be resolved”.

Papandreou added that there are some issues Greece will never negotiate on, such as national sovereignty. “It is offensive or unrealistic to believe that we can ever begin negotiating issues of national sovereignty. This is something Greece will never accept just as Turkey would never accept negotiations over any part of its territory”.

He also said that the two sides must respect international law and national sovereignty which are non-negotiable, and focus on issues that can be solved, such as the delimitation of the continental shelf. The former premier said it is particularly important to solve this issue and expressed confidence that the two sides are close to a positive outcome. “This is the spirit in which these negotiations should take place,” he added.

He also expanded on the importance of the ICJ and noting that Greece holds that islands have their own continental shelf while Turkey disputes this. “If there is no agreement on this, this could be an issue for the ICJ. This is the reason we’ve been talking about the Hague.”

Finally, Papandreou also discussed the refugee crisis and stressed its importance and stressed the importance of “low politics” such as co-operation on tourism, trade, environmental policy, and the coronavirus crisis.