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Greece to extend its territorial waters 12 miles south of Crete

Greece’s government plans to extend its territorial waters to 12 nautical miles to the south and west of the island of Crete in March, local media reported on Sunday.

The extension is in the context of hydrocarbon research and the government has reportedly already informed the European Union and the US administration.

Citing Foreign Ministry sources, newspaper tanea reported that the processing for the closure of the bays and the drawing of the baselines south of Crete has been opened and remained pending. However, reports say the file has been re-opened with view for next March.

The daily recalls that both Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias have repeatedly stated that the government will proceed with the extension if and whenever it is deemed to serve the national interests.

Even if the debate on this prospect has already been opened since 2020 and has continued emphatically since January 2021 after the law on the extension of territorial waters to 12 nautical miles in the Ionian Sea following an agreement with Italy.

The government made the decision due to favorable international and regional developments and seeks to gain an upper hand over the opposition by delivering on a long-held demand ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled in the first half of 2023.

A unilateral decision by Egypt on Dec.11 to demarcate its western maritime borders with neighboring Libya and exploration work by US energy giant ExxonMobil off Crete also spurred the move, tanea noted.

It added that Greek authorities did not expect a particularly harsh reaction from neighboring Turkey amid heightened tensions over a number of issues in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, Cyprus, and arms accumulation.

The move would also significantly help Athens’ wider regional strategy to curb Ankara and its influence over Libya.

Since early November, Exxon Mobil has been conducting seismic surveys in two blocks off Crete in the hope of discovering energy resources.

ExxonMobil research area south & west of Crete.

In response, Libya accused Greece of exploiting the Libyan crisis to impose a fait accompli and decried Athens’ “irresponsible behavior” of striking a deal with international companies to launch research and exploration efforts on the maritime borders between them.

Greece opposes a 2019 maritime boundaries agreement the Tripoli government signed with Turkey, which was later registered by the UN. In October 2022, the two countries also signed a preliminary agreement for energy exploration.

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