By Michele Kambas
Greece will launch consultations with Egypt and Cyprus to establish maritime boundaries in the eastern Mediterranean, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Wednesday.
Tsipras, who was visiting Cyprus, said those boundaries – which are normally a precursor to a state licensing for offshore oil and gas exploration – would be defined in areas where consent of “third countries” was not required.
Turkey and Greece have been at loggerheads for decades over land, air, sea and sea-floor borders in parts of the Aegean sea.
Cyprus, which was split in a Turkish invasion in 1974 after a brief Greek inspired coup, found gas offshore in 2011, in a move which has also been challenged by Ankara.
After talks with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, Tsipras said: “We agreed on further consultations for defining our sea zones wherever that is deemed necessary, and obviously there where it does not require an understanding and cooperation with third countries.”
Maritime zones claimed by countries for commercial research, known as economic exploitation zones, are normally governed by the United Nations law of the sea, or bilateral agreements between neighbouring states which normally settle on an equidistant boundary.
Ankara, which is not a signatory to that convention, questions the jurisdiction of Cyprus’s internationally-recognized Greek Cypriot government in exploring for oil and gas.
Cyprus, an EU member, has rebuffed Turkish claims and defined its economic zone in 2004. Since then it has defined its maritime boundaries with Egypt and Israel, where vast amounts of natural gas have been discovered in the past two years.