Turkey Disagrees with Greece’s Marine Park Plans in the Aegean Sea

Aegean islands from space
Greece wants to turn 11 uninhabited islands in the Aegean into a marine park (NASA file image)

Published Apr 11, 2024 11:03 PM by The Maritime Executive


Turkey has issued a stern response following an earlier announcement this week by Greece that it was looking to establish two new marine parks, one in the Aegean Sea and the other in the Ionian Sea. The Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs unveiled these plans ahead of the ninth Our Ocean Conference, scheduled to be held in Greece next week from April 16-17.

“In the context of the conference, the Greek government will announce the immediate creation of two large national marine parks. These two parks will be among the largest in the Mediterranean. For their surveillance, state-of-the-art monitoring system will be used including drones, radar, satellites and boats, in real time,” said the ministry.

However, the move has upset Turkey, with the Turkish foreign ministry swiftly issuing a statement cautioning Greece to desist from making unilateral decisions on matters Aegean Sea, where the two countries have overlapping claims. Greece and Turkey disagree on the extent of their territorial waters in the area and delimitation of the continental shelf. Most importantly, Turkey rejects what it refers to as militarization of some islands in the Aegean by Greece.

In its statement, Turkey said that Greece is trying to exploit environmental issues for its benefit on the outstanding maritime dispute in the Aegean.

“We recommend Greece not to involve within its agenda the outstanding Aegean issues, regarding the status of some islands and islets, whose sovereignty has not been ceded to Greece by the international treaties,” remarked the Turkish Foreign Ministry. “We would also like to advise third parties, including the EU, not to become a tool for Greece’s politically motivated attempts regarding environmental programs.”

Greece has responded to these claims asking Turkey to stop politicizing a “purely environmental issue”. The Greek foreign ministry added that environmental protection should raise awareness among governments rather than be used as an instrument of geopolitical gain. Greece emphasized that its goal of expanding marine protected areas is in tandem with the global ambition of protecting 30 percent of the ocean by 2030. The government also gave a commitment that at around the same time, commercial fishing will not be allowed in 10 percent of its seas.

In December, Turkish President Erdogan paid a visit to Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in Athens, in a diplomatic effort to manage the longstanding tensions between the two countries.