Athens - Greece said it would be willing to agree with Turkey on demlimiting their respective economic zones at sea, urging its neighbour to tone down what it said were tensions harming Ankara's ties with the EU.
The two neighbours, allies in NATO, are at odds over a number of issues from commercial rights in the Aegean to territorial waters and the ethnically-split island of Cyprus. "My door is always open, but this dialogue presupposes a reduction in unnecessary tensions," Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said after meeting German Acting ChancellorAngela Merkel who was visiting Athens.
"Greece has signed agreements defining exclusive economiczones with neighbouring countries like Italy, 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. Turkey’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Ankara has said it is open to discussing maritime delimitation with all countries as long as its rightsare respected. Greece and Turkey almost clashed last year when each sentout warships to sea regions they considered their own. Althoughthose scenes have not been repeated, the two countries regularlysnipe over Cyprus, against which Turkey has mounted a consistent challenge to stop the east Mediterranean island exploringoffshore for oil and gas.
Cyprus's internationally-recognised Greek Cypriot government have issued licences for offshore oil and gas exploration, a move that Turkey says disregards the rights of the island's Turkish Cypriot community. Offshore exclusive economic zones are maritime areas agreedbetween neighbouring states, defining where a country hascommercial rights such as the right to explore for hydrocarbons.Those zones can extend to up to 200 nautical miles from ashoreline, or, if sharing the sea area with another state, theequidistance between the two. But in the case of Greece and Turkey, the issue iscomplicated by disputes over the extent of their continentalshelves and the limit of their territorial waters. The disputehas held up any declaration by Greece to extend its territorialwaters to 12 miles from 6 in the Aegean. The two countries re-launched exploratory informal contactson their disputes early this year.