Athens, Greece – With 284 votes in favor and 16 “present,” lawmakers approved legislation to extend Greece’s territorial waters along its western coastline from six to 12 nautical miles.

“For the first time since the Dodecanese (islands) in 1947, the national territory is enlarged by about 10%, with procedures completely based on the rules of international law,” said Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, addressing Parliament.

“The expansion of the waters to the West inevitably sends a message to the East. It shows that violence does not produce justice, but that – on the contrary – it is this law that produces peace,” he said, adding that the extension is “a clear message to those who are trying to deprive our country.”

Greece optimistic over talks with Turkey but won’t discuss sovereignty

Greece will approach talks with Turkey on January 25, 2021 over their disputed territorial claims in a hopeful spirit but will not discuss issues it considers as sovereign rights, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said.

Mitsotakis was speaking ahead of a parliamentary vote on a bill extending Greece’s western territorial waters to 12 nautical miles from six currently, days before NATO allies Greece and Turkey resume exploratory talks over contested maritime claims in the Aegean.

The talks are set to begin in Istanbul on January 25, 2021 after a four-year pause.

“We will attend with optimism, self-confidence,” Mitsotakis said, but there would be “zero naivety” from Greece about the talks, which were unofficial and non-binding.

“There will be no discussion on national sovereignty,” he added.

He said the discussions were expected to resume at the point where they were interrupted in 2016.

Greece and Turkey held 60 rounds of talks from 2002 to 2016, but plans last year for a resumption foundered over a survey vessel that Turkey sent into disputed waters and disagreements over topics to be covered.

The latter issue remains unresolved, as Greece only wants to discuss the demarcation of maritime zones in the Aegean and the Mediterranean. Turkey says all issues should be discussed, including air space and the status of some Aegean islands.

The bill under vote does not affect waters off Greece’s southern and eastern coasts, where Turkey has warned that any such move by Greece would be a “casus belli,” or cause for war.

But Greece says that under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea it retains the right to exercise its rights in other parts of its territory.

Greek PM says Greece reserves right to extend sea borders in other parts of its territory.

It is the first time since 1947 that Greece will be expanding its national sovereign territory, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said, as Parliament prepared to vote on a bill for the extension of Greece’s territorial waters to 12 nautical miles, from six, in the Ionian Sea.

He said Greece retained the right to exercise corresponding rights in Crete and other parts of its territory.

Turkey has warned that an eastern extension of Greece’s territorial borders would be a “casus belli,” or cause for war.

Mitsotakis said the country was expanding its sovereign territory “neither by annexing foreign territory, nor at the expense of other states, but by following procedures that are based on international law,” a reference to the United Nations Law of the Sea which gives Greece the right to extend its sea borders to 12 miles.

The Paris Peace Treaties of 1947 – signed between Italy and victorious allies after the Second World War – placed the 14 islands of the Dodecanese complex and dozens of islets under Greece.

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias extension of waters also concerns east Crete

As the bill for the extension of Greece’s territorial waters to 12 nautical miles in the Ionian Sea is set for Parliamentary approval, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias insisted that the expansion when it takes place in Crete will also affect its eastern part.

“The expansion of territorial waters in Crete includes, of course, the eastern part of Crete,” he told MPs. “Greece is preparing and retaining its sovereign right to expand its territorial waters anywhere in its territory, whenever it deems it appropriate.”

Turkey has long threatened Greece not to expand its territorial waters on its eastern coast to 12 nautical miles. Greece openly breaches and defies Turkey’s sovereign Mavi Vatan in Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean.

Referring to exploratory contacts with Turkey on January 25, 2021, Dendias reiterated that the only issues up for discussion are the demarcation of the continental shelf and the exclusive economic zone.