Draft bill extending territorial waters in the Ionian widely approved in first reading

A committee in Parliament approved the draft bill extending the Greek territorial waters on the Ionian Sea to 12 nautical miles in its first reading on Tuesday, in the presence of Foreign Affairs Minister Nikos Dendias.

The approval in principle at Standing Committee on National Defense and Foreign Affairs came from all parties except the Communist Party, which voted “present”.

“This was a show of national agreement,” Dendias said, including KKE’s stance. “There was a lack of the usual climate of recriminations, of an effort for small-minded party benefit by anyone, but there was wide agreement on the basic stance,” the minister added.

Dendias also said he had noted the legislative improvements suggested by main opposition SYRIZA representative on the committee and announced also that a legislative change to the related presidential bill on closed bays will also be amended, adding the phrase “as currently applicable”.

The FM reiterated Greece’s right to extend its territorial waters in the Aegean as well, based on the rights provided by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Dec. 10, 1982), and underlined also the stance of Russia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov, who had, during his visit to Athens, “explicity clarified his country’s position in terms of Greece’s sovereign right.”

Wrapping up discussion, Dendias told the committee members “it was a rare opportunity in the life of an MP and a minister” to see such agreement, and thanked the committee members “for your stance, which serves national interests.”

Earlier, during the committee’s works, Dendias said of the draft bill, “It is the frist time since 1947 that the Greek Parliament is called on to vote the increase of national sovereign territory, an inalienable right of Greece to increase our territorial waters in the Ionian Sea to Cape Tainaro from 6 nautical miles to 12 nm.”

The bill extends the national sovereign territory by 10,079 square kilometers, or over 13,000 sq.km. “if one adds in the space created by the legal closing lines of bays, according to international law.” As a measure of comparison, the minister said that Greece has a surface area of 131,000 sq.km., and that of Crete is slightly over 8,500 sq.km.

The draft bill is titled “Establishment of the extent of the territorial sea zone in the marine region of the Ionian and the Ionian Islands to Cape Tainaron of the Peloponnese”. Prior to its tabling in Parliament last week, a presidential decree was issued on the closing of bays and the delimitation of straight baselines at the Ionian sea area down to Cape Tainaro on the Peloponnese.

Based on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Dec. 10, 1982), Greece said it reserves the right to apply corresponding rights in the rest of its territory.

Plenary discussion and voting on the draft bill is expected on January 19.