Greece to go ahead with plans for Aegean marine park, PM says

Greece to go ahead with plans for Aegean marine park, PM says

Greece will go ahead with plans to create a marine park in the Aegean Sea despite objections from Turkey, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Wednesday in an interview, during which he also addressed lingering diplomatic tensions with Balkan neighbors Albania and North Macedonia.

“These are marine parks within our territorial waters. There has been a lot of pointless discussion on this issue. It doesn’t concern Turkey. If Turkey wants to create its own parks within its territorial waters, that’s none of my business,” he told Action24 television channel.

In April, Greece announced plans to create two large marine parks – one in the Aegean Sea and one in the Ionian Sea – as part of a 780-million-euro ($830 million) program to protect biodiversity and marine ecosystems. Ankara has accused Athens of exploiting environmental issues to push its geopolitical agenda and, in a tit-for-tat move earlier this month, announced its own initiative to map similar parks in the region.

In the same interview, the Greek prime minister dismissed Turkish attempts to challenge Greek sovereignty in the eastern Aegean.

“There are no ‘gray zones’ in the Aegean for Greece. The sovereignty issues in the Aegean – I also mentioned this to President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan – are defined by the Treaty of Lausanne,” he said, referring to their Ankara meeting on May 13.

Referring to the Turkish strongman, Mitsotakis said, “Our relationship is difficult but we have found a code of sincere communication.”

Defense procurements

Discussing plans to reinforce the country’s defense arsenal, Mitsotakis said that Greece is in a phase of reevaluating its armaments program as it needs to “be prepared for fresh challenges.”

Asked about the possibility of procuring four additional Rafale fighter jets from France, he said, “At the moment, we have 24 Rafale jets. We would like to bring that number up to 30. We will see if the budget can support this,” adding that acquiring corvettes is also in the cards. He provided no further details.

Diplomatic row

The interview also touched upon Athens’ diplomatic row with Tirana and Skopje.

The conservative leader described Albania’s treatment of Fredi Beleri, the jailed ethnic Greek mayor-elect in southern Albania, as “unacceptable.”

Beleri, who is a candidate for the June 9 European Parliament elections with Mitsotakis’ New Democracy party, late Tuesday accused Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama of manipulating justice to undermine his candidacy. His remarks came after the Albanian judiciary transferred the first hearing of his appeal to the Court of Appeal to June 7.

Turning to North Macedonia, where the newly-elected president and prime minister-elect have both refrained from referring to their country by its constitutional name, in violation of the 2018 Prespa Agreement, Mitsotakis appeared to rule out the possibility of Greece denouncing the accord.

“I believe it will not be necessary. Although we did not support the Prespa Agreement, we said we would respect it. It has provisions regarding the name, and I expect a clear statement from the new prime minister that it will be referred to as ‘North Macedonia.’ I believe things will find their way,” he said.

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