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

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Jan. 20 that Greece is optimistic about its talks with Turkey on the contested maritime claims, but added that there would be "zero naivety" from Athens about the talks.


Greece will approach talks with Turkey next week over their disputed territorial claims in a hopeful spirit but will not discuss issues it considers as sovereign rights, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Jan. 20. 

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 Jan. 25, after a four-year pause.

"We will attend with optimism, self-confidence," Mitsotakis said, but there would be "zero naivety" from Athens 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.

Ankara and Athens 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 Athens 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.