Greece to extend territorial waters off Crete, western coast

Greece will extend its territorial waters to 12 nautical miles from six nautical miles off its western coastline in legislation that parliament will approve on Wednesday, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said.

The measures will also apply to waters off the eastern side of Crete, Dendias said, Kathimerini newspaper reported on Wednesday.

While Greece says it has a legal right to extend its territorial waters to 12 nautical miles, citing the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Turkey says that the Aegean is a special case and if the provisions of the Law of the Sea are applied, Turkey will be cut off. Ankara has long said that any such extension would be a cause for war (casus belli).

“The expansion of territorial waters in Crete includes, of course, the eastern part of the island,” Dendias told Greek MP’s. “Greece is preparing and retaining its sovereign right to expand its territorial waters anywhere in its territory, whenever it deems it appropriate.”

Greece’s western coastline faces Italy, not Turkey. Crete lies in the Mediterranean, around 135 nautical miles (250 kilometres) southwest of Turkey. Mainland Greece and Turkey are separated by the Aegean Sea. 

Dendias also spoke about exploratory talks with Turkey, which are scheduled to resume next week. He said the only issues up for discussion were the continental shelf and an exclusive economic zone.

The exploratory talks between Greece and Turkey will begin on Jan.25.

Greek and Turkish officials began NATO- brokered talks between military officials in September to discuss a dispute over territory in the eastern Mediterranean. They were suspended after Turkey redeployed a seismic research ship to the region in October.

Greece and Turkey disagree on overlapping claims to hydrocarbon resources in the region, with both sides holding conflicting views of how far their continental shelves extend into the waters.