Greece Expands its Territorial Boundaries in Ionian Sea

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The government of Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis will be doubling the declared margin of its territorial seas claim in the Ionian Sea.

If Mitsotakis wins a parliamentary vote on Thursday, Greece will treat the waters extending from its western shores as its own out to 12 nautical miles, doubling the current national claim of six nautical miles. The 12 nautical mile limit is the UNCLOS standard for territorial seas. The change applies only to Greek waters between the northern Ionian Islands and the Peloponnese.

“Greece is growing,” said Mitsotakis. “We are exercising our indisputable right – a right which our country reserves to exercise in the future in other sea areas.”

The move comes in the context of a rapidly growing dispute over maritime boundaries with Turkey. The Turkish government has laid claim to a significant swath of Greece’s continental shelf and deployed a seismic vessel to survey it – accompanied by a five-ship naval escort. The Greek government has dispatched its own naval assets to monitor the mission, and it has called the vessel’s presence unlawful. 

Wednesday’s announcement about the Ionian Sea does not affect Turkish waters, but Turkey has previously warned that if Greece were to increase its territorial seas in the Aegean – where they would overlap with Turkish claims – it would be treated as an act of war. 

“We don’t have our eye on someone else’s territory, sovereignty and interests, but we will make no concessions on that which is ours,” said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday. “We are determined to do whatever is necessary.”

France, Italy, Cyprus and the UAE have dispatched military assets to conduct joint training missions with the Greek armed forces in the Mediterranean, a sign of military support for Greece as tensions with Ankara rise. Turkey carried out its own air and naval exercises in the Aegean on August 22. 

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