Greece and Turkey had agreed in 2003 to allow the International Court of Justice to rule on a number of matters dividing the two countries, especially the delineation of the continental shelf in the Aegean, but the deal failed to materialize after Ankara increased its demands, sources told Sunday’s Kathimerini. The idea of settling Greece’s disputes with Turkey at the ICJ, the legal arm of the United Nations, has been revived recently after former president Costis Stephanopoulos suggested in an article for Kathimerini last Sunday that referring the matter to judges at The Hague may help avoid a «hostile incident» between the neighboring states. However, sources told Kathimerini journalist Stavros Lygeros that Athens and Ankara had been extremely close to taking this step three years ago. During one of the regular rounds of diplomatic contacts between the two sides, it was agreed that the ICJ should arbitrate over the continental shelf dispute. This subject is a key stumbling block in relations as both sides believe they could find oil and mineral resources in their seabeds. Turkey believes that Greece’s continental shelf should end halfway across the Aegean, which would mean that Greek islands in the eastern Aegean would not be taken into account. Athens wants the islands to be included. However, the deal disintegrated in 2003 when Turkey wanted to include a paragraph saying the continental shelf was only one of the issues dividing the two countries. Turkish diplomats told their Greek counterparts that the future of Thrace was one of the others, sources said. Greece recognizes the delineation of the continental shelf as the only legitimate issue it has to settle with Turkey. Meanwhile, in response to an article by Lygeros which argued that Stephanopoulos’s argument had been contradictory, the former president wrote to Kathimerini clarifying his point of view. «The basic idea of my article is to find a solution to all the Greek-Turkish differences so that calm can return to relations between the two countries,» said Stephanopoulos in a letter published yesterday, while admitting that there were some contradictions in his argument. The former president said that resorting to the ICJ was a step aimed at avoiding war or a «hostile incident» and that his suggestion should be used as a launch pad for a wider discussion. Stephanopoulos denied suggesting that Greece’s eastern Aegean islands should be demilitarized. He said that this matter should be referred to the court as well. «The arming of the islands is necessary as long as the threat exists,» he said.