New proposal on Aegean

Almost one in two Greeks believe their country’s relations with Turkey have deteriorated over the last year, according to a poll made public yesterday as the government rejected a proposal by PASOK leader George Papandreou that Greece should extend its territorial waters. Papandreou made the suggestion to Premier Costas Karamanlis during a meeting which the Socialist leader had requested and he reiterated the comment later while addressing his party’s parliamentary group. He said Greece should exercise its right to extend its territorial waters before it decides to refer its dispute with Turkey over the delineation of the continental shelf to the International Court of Justice at The Hague. However, Karamanlis is said to have distanced himself from Papandreou’s proposal and indicated that he did not want to change Greek foreign policy. New Democracy sources told Kathimerini that they felt Papandreou’s suggestion was aimed mainly at rallying the support of his party and its implementation could lead to armed conflict with Turkey. Papandreou argued that Athens had to take this step or it would lose the right to extend its territorial waters once the United Nations court had ruled on the dispute. Under international law, Greece can extend its territorial waters, as well as its air space, up to 12 nautical miles but so far has only chosen to keep the waters to 6 miles and its air space to 10 miles. Ankara maintains that an extension of Greek territorial waters constitutes a casus belli or cause for war. The Socialist leader did not indicate how far he believes Greece’s waters should be extended. Meanwhile, a poll conducted by VPRC on behalf of Skai television and radio stations found that 68 percent of respondents felt that Greece’s dispute with Turkey in the Aegean was the most serious problem in relations between the two countries. One in 10 said that Cyprus was the biggest problem. Just over half of those questioned believe the neighboring countries can solve their dispute and 24 percent said that war was a possibility. Six in 10 Greeks said that they probably did not support Turkey’s candidacy for membership in the European Union.

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