Greece on Friday expressed readiness to agree with Turkey on delimiting their respective economic zones at sea.
The two neighbors, allies in NATO, are at odds over a number of issues such as competing claims over jurisdiction in the Eastern Mediterranean, air space, energy, the ethnically split island of Cyprus and the status of islands in the Aegean.
"My door is always open, but this dialogue presupposes a reduction in unnecessary tensions," Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said after meeting German acting Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was visiting Athens.
"Greece has signed agreements defining exclusive economic zones with neighbouring countries like Italy and Egypt. There is no reason why we cannot do it with Turkey, provided that the tensions be toned down, and realise that such an approach would be eventually beneficial to both countries," Mitsotakis said.
Ankara has said it is open to discussing maritime delimitation with all countries as long as its rights are respected.
Offshore exclusive economic zones are maritime areas agreed on between neighboring states, defining where a country has commercial rights such as the right to explore for hydrocarbons. Those zones can extend to up to 200 nautical miles from a shoreline, or, if sharing the sea area with another state, the equidistance between the two.
But in the case of Greece and Turkey, the issue is complicated by disputes over the extent of their continental shelves and the limit of their territorial waters. The dispute has held up any declaration by Greece to extend its territorial waters to 12 miles from 6 in the Aegean.
Turkey, which has the longest continental coastline in the Eastern Mediterranean, has rejected maritime boundary claims made by European Union members Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration, stressing that these excessive claims violate the sovereign rights of both Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). Both sides cite a range of decades-old treaties and international agreements to support their conflicting territorial claims.
Turkish leaders have repeatedly stressed that Ankara is in favor of resolving outstanding problems in the region through international law, good neighborly relations, dialogue and negotiations. Instead of opting to solve problems with Ankara through dialogue, Athens has, on several occasions, refused to sit at the negotiation table and has opted to rally Brussels to take a tougher stance against Turkey.
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