Addressing parliament on Wednesday during the plenary debate on the draft bill extending Greece’s territorial waters to 12 nautical miles in the Ionian Sea, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis began his speech with a reference to the state of the united Ionian Islands, which was established and acquired constitutional status in 1818. The draft bill covers the region of the Ionian Sea and the Ionian islands, up to Cape Tainaro in the Peloponnese.
“It was the first form of territorial reference to Hellenism after 400 years of enslavement. A region that became part of the Kingdom of Greece in 1864. Today, over a century and half later, Greece is growing again in the same region,” he said, adding: “Today, in early 2021, we are taking the second substantial step and our country is extending its sovereignty in the Ionian Sea to 12 nautical miles. I had already announced it in August 2020. Greece can obviously also exercise this right around Crete but at a time, in a manner and under the conditions of its own choosing.”
“It is a clear message that the Greek government sends to those who attempt to deprive Greece of this right through threats and bullying,” the prime minister said, adding that “today’s development is not accidental and nothing was self evident”.
Mitsotakis noted that the government has signed successive agreements with Italy and Egypt and these agreements were the result of hard and difficult negotiations under Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias. “They constitute two rings of peace and cooperation and a model for security and stability in an area that some are threatening to turn it into a minefield. Recently, the Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama stated that extension to 12 nautical miles is Greece’s inalienable right, proving that the Mediterranean can become as sea of peace”.
Mitsotakis also spoke of the new United States president, saying that he is an experienced politician who is aware of the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean. “Greece has become a key ally of the USA. I know President Biden personally. He is an experienced politician who has steady and non-negotiable values. I am certain that Greek-American bonds will become stronger than ever”.
The premier also sent a message to Turkey: “[This bill] creates fait accomplis of stability and security. The exercise of this sovereign right sends a message to the East. That violence does not produce justice but justice that produces peace. With the same legal framework, we can resolve our difference with Turkey, provided its leadership abandons the monologue of disputes and comes to the negotiations table”.
Mitsotakis said that Greece’s position has been clear from the start: “Once the provocations stop, talks begin. We are coming to the exploratory talks that are starting on January 25 with optimism and self confidence but without naivety”.
He underlined that Greece supports the dialogue under two conditions: that Turkish provocations within Greece’s Exclusive Economic Zone cease and that the exploratory talks be picked up from the point they broke off in 2016.