ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece said Monday that it plans to extend territorial waters along its western coastline from six to 12 nautical miles, a move that could impact a tense dispute with neighbor Turkey.
Parliament will begin debating draft legislation this week for the extension, government spokesman Christos Tarantilis said Monday.
Although Greece’s western coastline faces Italy and borders Albania, the expansion is aimed at underscoring the country’s right to implement the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, which set the 12-mile limit in 1982.
“This is a historic decision, as Greece extends its territorial waters to 12 nautical miles in this area and expands — for the first time since 1947 — the area of its territory,” Tarantilis said.
“The Hellenic Republic reserves the right to exercise its respective rights in other regions of its territory.”
NATO members Greece and Turkey are at odds over sea boundaries and mineral rights in the Aegean Sea and eastern Mediterranean. the dispute triggered a tense standoff last year when a Turkish research vessel was used to survey waters where Greece claims jurisdiction.
Turkey says an extension of Greece’s territorial waters eastward would be considered an act of war, arguing that Greek islands would effectively block its access to the Aegean.
Talks between the two countries to try to resolve the dispute broke down four years ago. Under pressure from western allies, the two sides say they are willing to restart that dialogue.
Separately Monday, the government said that it was planning to fast-track legislation for parliamentary approval of a program to acquire 18 French-made Rafale fighter jets — 12 already in service in the French military and six new aircraft.
Tarantilis said debate on the program would also start in parliament this week with deliveries of the aircraft expected to begin in the summer. Greece’s annual spending on defense is being hiked by more than a third in 2021 to 5.4 billion euros ($6.6 billion) compared to last year, as the country attempts to keep pace with Turkey following years of cutbacks during a major financial crisis. ___ Follow Derek Gatopoulos at https://twitter.com/dgatopoulos