Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Q: Mr. Minister, we’d like a comment about the visit of Turkey’s Foreign Minister, Mr. Davutoglu, to Greece a few days ago. There were some comments made [by Mr. Davutoglu] that certain Greek media outlets deemed as provoking, such as the Minister’s statement on Kastelorizo island or the way Mr. Davutoglu behaved during his tour in Northern Greece’s northern Thrace region.I’d like to ask you whether you think that a new era in Greek-Turkish relations truly exists or if it’s a myth.

Ev. Venizelos: Greece is constructive and creative in its foreign policy but is not naïve. We believe in the need of a Greek-Turkish rapprochement, under a certain prerequisite: that Turkey believes in its path towards the West, meaning it has a diplomatic and military attitude that meets the rules and principles of western practices.

Mr. Davutoglu is an intelligent and experienced diplomat and academic. He’s framing the argument that in the Aegean Sea there are special circumstances and that therefore a linear application of International Law and of the Law of the Sea does not apply. That is a well-known argument.

What does Greece say? We say that the only secure framework is the International Law. We say that a negotiation over national sovereignty and sovereign rights issues cannot take place. We say that matters of administrative competences and jurisdictions, such as search and rescue or civil aviation oversight, of issues on FIR, can only be handled through the framework of International Law.

The geography and toponomy that we use is very important. So, Greece wants to see in the Aegean Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean region in force everything that’s been in force on any other EU and NATO region. That means the same practices for military aircraft flights, the same practices for warship sails, the same practices for search and rescue during air and marine accidents, the same practices regarding underwater and sea surface explorations. It is so pure and simple that everybody understands it.

Q: Wouldn’t it be equally simple to demarcate an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)? And I say that because it strikes me as odd that not just your government but the previous government as well did not demarcate such zones.

Ev. Venizelos: The International Convention on the Law of the Sea provides for different maritime zones. The most common one is the Continental Shelf. As far as our waters are concerned, the waters of the Mediterranean, the Continental Shelf and the EEZ overlap. Let’s say, generally in order to avoid any minutiae, 200 miles.

The Continental Shelf exists in its own right; there is no need to declare one. It only needs to be delineated. Until 1980 or so, all delineations were about a Continental Shelf. Greece has a delineated Continental Shelf, in the Adriatic Sea and the Ionian Sea, with Italy. The agreement that took place, but unfortunately has not been validated yet, with Albania, concerns maritime zones in general. So, indeed now we jointly proceed in both major maritime zones because, either way, the demarcation of one leads to the demarcation of the other.

What is the new –practical- element in the EEZ? It invalidates an old Turkish claim that Greek islands do not have a Continental Shelf because they rest on the Continental Shelf of the Turkish mainland. The Continental Shelf is geologically oriented as a concept, while the EEZ is a purely legal notion, therefore the old geological argument -that does not apply, in any case, for the new legal concept of the Continental Shelf- is void.

So we additionally need that concept too. For example Cyprus and Israel demarcated the EEZ for matters of natural resources exploitation hence for matters touching upon the Continental Shelf. What’s important is to find some common ground to reach an understanding. And that common ground we’ll find in goodwill, constructively, respecting International Law. I think that this has been made clear and we must be steadfast and unwavering as a country, because that’s the message our neighbors understand.

Q: I don’t understand, are we going to declare an EEZ or not?

Ev. Venizelos: Look, we can declare our EEZ anytime. We’ll do it at the appropriate time; the Prime Minister said that during the Parliamentary debate on foreign policy, because, either way, at this point in time the demarcations taking place across the world are multi-purpose demarcations for maritime zones.

And I cite a very specific example: Greece insists on the ratification of its agreement with Albania. This is an agreement about all maritime zones. -


Tags: Interviews