After vote, Greece to double reach of western coastal waters
ATHENS, Greece (AP) - Legislators in Greece passed legislation by an overwhelming majority on Wednesday to extend the country's territorial waters along its west coast from six to twelve nautical miles.
In the 284-0 vote, representatives from four opposition parties supported the center-right government, while members of the Communist Party of Greece abstained.
Although this move does not directly affect an ongoing dispute over sea borders with Turkey in the east, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told parliament that Greece is pursuing a more assertive foreign policy.
"It is a clear message to those who are trying to deprive our country of this right," said Mitsotakis.
The west coast of Greece lies to Italy and borders on Albania at the northern tip. However, the expansion is intended to underscore the country's right to implement the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which established the 12-mile limit in 1982.
Greece and Turkey, neighbors and NATO allies, are arguing over maritime borders and mineral rights in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean in a dispute that has led to a tense military conflict last year.
Under pressure from Western allies, Turkey and Greece will resume talks on January 25 to ease tension and resume a process suspended five years ago.
Turkey says eastward expansion of Greek territorial waters would be viewed as an act of war, arguing that the Greek islands would effectively block access to the Aegean Sea. The longstanding dispute between the two countries has been fueled in recent years by the discovery of large offshore gas deposits in the eastern Mediterranean.
Greece recently signed agreements with Italy and Egypt on the delineation of the rights to research maritime transport and is in talks with Albania to bring a dispute over the maritime border to an international court.
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