Greece-Egypt deal disproves Athens’ own thesis on maritime jurisdiction, expert says

Greece has disproven its own thesis by signing a maritime deal with Egypt in the Eastern Mediterranean, according to associate professor Cihat Yaycı, head of Maritime and Global Strategies Center at Bahçeşehir University.


He said it was unlawful for Athens to claim maritime jurisdiction with just a total of 167 kilometers (103 miles) of coastline in the region against Turkey’s 1,870 kilometer-long coast.


He noted that the Egypt-Greece deal can’t override the Turkey-Libya deal. Speaking to Anadolu Agency (AA), Yaycı said the agreement was signed to block Turkey and Libya’s maritime neighborhood.


“Greece is not our interlocutor in the Eastern Mediterranean. We have no problems. It is only a matter of Greece requesting a part of our rightful marine space,” Yaycı said, adding that Athens renounced by 50% the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) it previously envisaged for the islands of Rhodes and Crete, disproving its own thesis that islands are entitled to their own maritime jurisdiction area.


In response to the Greek-Egyptian deal, the Turkish Foreign Ministry noted there is no mutual sea border between Egypt and Greece. It reminded that Egypt, which surrendered an area of 11,500 square kilometers (4,440 square miles) with the so-called agreement it signed with the Greek Cypriot administration in 2003, has once again acted at the expense of and against the interests of the Egyptian people with this move.


Since the discovery of significant gas reserves in the region a decade ago, countries have been engaged in renewed disputes over maritime borders while international law also presents few remedies. The deepening rift between the two countries has surfaced with Turkey’s decision to enhance energy exploration activities in the Eastern Mediterranean and the deal Ankara made with Libya’s official government.


Egypt and Greece had been in talks for a while after Turkey and Libya on Nov. 27, 2019, signed two separate pacts – one on military cooperation and the other on the maritime boundaries of countries in the Eastern Mediterranean.


The agreement between Turkey and Libya determined the sovereignty area based on international law as 186,000 square kilometers. Thus, the possibility of making an EEZ agreement between Greece and Egypt, and Greece and Greek Cyprus, was eliminated.


The maritime pact asserted Turkey’s rights in the Eastern Mediterranean in the face of unilateral drilling by the Greek Cypriot administration, clarifying that the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) also had rights to the resources in the area. The pact took effect on Dec. 8.


Yaycı continued by saying that Egypt does not accept Greece’s claims about the island of Kastellorizo having its own EEZ or continental shelf, and did not include it in the deal.


“The same way it is unacceptable in terms of Turkey’s maritime rights and interests for Greece to draw straight lines between Crete and Rhodes as if there is no sea between them to establish coastal waters and create an EEZ starting from this line, it is also against international maritime law and is a violation of the law,” Yaycı said, adding that the Egypt-Greece agreement is invalid.


“Greece has fooled Egypt by utilizing its diplomatic cunningness and has used it as a tool for its unlawful activities,” the professor added.


Referring to the example of Spain and Morocco, Yaycı said Spain has islands near the Moroccan coast but takes the mainland as a reference to determine maritime jurisdiction, by respecting Morocco’s maritime law, contrary to what Greece has been doing.


Yaycı continued by saying that Turkey should continue to follow a proactive strategy and announce its EEZ, as he noted that the Greek calls for EU sanctions on Turkey do not have a legal basis.


Ankara argues that the continental shelf should be determined by taking into consideration the distances from the continental mainland. Accordingly, the Aegean seabed is considered as the geographical prolongation of Turkey and if there is a clash of maritime claims between two states, the division should be made by the median line. Turkish officials note that the island of Kastellorizo is located 2 kilometers off of Turkey, but around 600 kilometers off of Greece’s mainland, therefore the tiny island should not have an EEZ.


Kaynak: Daily Sabah