Greece extending its territorial waters in the Ionian Sea does not have an impact on the boundaries of the Aegean Sea, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement Wednesday, asserting Turkey’s determination to protect its rights and interests.
“The extension of territorial waters in the Ionian Sea by Greece to 12 nautical miles reaches up the south of the Peloponnesian Peninsula and does not affect the Aegean Sea in any way,” Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hami Aksoy said.
Aksoy underlined that Turkey has vested interests and rights to the semi-enclosed, geographically unique Aegean Sea.
"Turkey’s position that the territorial waters in the Aegean Sea should not be unilaterally extended in a way to restrict the freedom of navigation, as well as the access to the high seas of both Turkey and third countries, is well-known by all parties," he said.
Turkey’s position remains unchanged, he said.
Lawmakers in Greece on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved legislation to extend the country’s territorial waters along its western coastline from six to 12 nautical miles.
In the 284-0 vote, representatives of four opposition parties backed the center-right government, while members of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) abstained.
Although the move does not directly affect an ongoing maritime boundary dispute with Turkey to the east, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told Parliament that Greece was adopting a more assertive foreign policy.
“It’s a clear message to those who are trying to deprive our country of this right,” Mitsotakis said.
Greece signed an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) deal on June 9 with Italy and Aug. 7 with Egypt.
The decree on the closure of the bays and the marking of straight baselines in the Ionian Sea region and the Ionian Islands up to Cape Tainaro in the Peloponnese took effect Dec. 27 after it was published in the Greek official gazette.
The draft bill was taken to Parliament on Jan. 9 for discussion by lawmakers.
Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said Tuesday that discussions on extending territorial waters off the eastern coast of the island of Crete are being held.
In the mid-1990s, Greece attempted to extend its territorial waters in the Aegean Sea to 12 miles but aborted the plan after Turkey declared that the move would be considered a casus belli, or cause for war.
Turkey and Greece are due to begin exploratory talks on Jan. 25 in Istanbul to resolve maritime disputes.